Life &… Imposter Syndrome

Low, Moderate, High, Very High, Extreme

Does anyone else ever feel like an imposter in their own life? Seriously, I am really asking…. I don’t know if it is the endless hours of pandemic life or the non-stop party that 2020 has turned out to be but I find myself questioning if I am really qualified to be doing X, Y or Z constantly.

Let me define this for any of your lucky people who do not suffer from this:

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

This is not a new phenomenon for me. I have, for as long as I can remember, questioned whether or not I am good enough, qualified enough, talented, enough, brave enough, strong enough, fit enough, old/young enough, etc. for the job at hand. This started at a very young age. I think being the youngest of seven children I came into this world trying to be older, louder, wiser, more emotional, better, cuter, smarter, faster, funnier… anything to get noticed. This was not because I was neglected, in fact, my brothers and sisters would be quick to say that I was spoiled and got plenty of attention. However, MY reality was I was born into a constant competition to be seen and heard, valued and understood, by whatever means I had at my disposal. This mental comparison of “am I enough” was, and honestly still is, a constant script running through my mind like a ticker tape. Though I have learned to quiet it over the years it is always there, beckoning me to look, to take notice and start down the path of doubt, shame and guilt, and feelings of truly being an imposter in my own self.

I am sure this is anxiety. Though I have never been formally diagnosed I have read enough about it and studied up some. Most of us live with some level of anxiety right, but it is what we do with it, how we deal that forces us to confront it. I force it down until I wake up, like this morning, with an overwhelming urge to verbally spew my thoughts to the void about my insecurities and try to process how I feel. Sometimes I talk with girlfriends, family, therapists, or co-workers or sometimes I cry over a good book, movie, song, commercial that I feel a connection to. Which ever way I choose to process, I usually process. But this year, this shit-storm of a year, that will forever be followed by a collective eye-roll and heavy sigh by all who have lived through it, and honestly I believe will be footnoted as such in history books from here forward, has me feeling more and more like an imposter in all the facets of my life.

Example of History Book Footnote of the Future*** 2020 [insert] eye-roll-heavy-sigh

The biggest of all is teaching this year has me really feeling like an imposter. First of all let me be really clear, teaching online sucks! This does not mean I am ready to go back until there is a vaccine. I do value my life and those lives around me, I just do not like teaching in a virtual world. I teach because I love to be with kids, feel their collective energy see the learning happen in person. I love to move around, NOT sit at a computer all day, create in the moment, organically go where the students learning path takes me. Online, sitting at a computer staring at 25-50 kids daily, with them all muted except for the one talking makes me feel like a fraud of a teacher. It make me feel very inadequate and extremely ineffective at a job I love to do. Yet, if I am being honest, even in a normal classroom in-person setting, I often feel like an imposter. After 9 years in a classroom I still feel like I am brand new to this game. I compare myself daily to those around me. The ticker tape reads: Am I doing enough? Am I helping THAT kid? Did I teach that right? Could I have done that better? Is that student okay? Will I get through the curriculum? Did I give enough praise? Did I give too much praise? Did that feedback help? What are they doing in that classroom? Will the students remember this as a good year, a fun year, a challenging year, a learning year???? And this is just the tip of the iceberg. But at least in a regular classroom I have support of colleagues and the experience of what has worked in the past. I have immediate feedback from kids that they are getting it, that they are enjoying and learning and things are going well. This is not the case this year.

This year is bad because, well it’s 2020 (***2020 eye-roll-heavy-sigh). I could stop here but verbal diarrhea to process remember. Imposter syndrome is high, wildfire high.

As a kid I remember driving back and forth from California to Oregon often to visit friends and family. Now as an adult, every summer we drive to visit family in California from our home in Washington. A constant landmark that I have seen since I was a kid has been the FIRE DANGER sign. The one with the gauge that goes from low to extreme. Do you know that one I mean (see photo above for reference)? This is how I feel in my life right now, like a wildfire of fraud is raging in my brain from moderate to extreme on any given day, never on low. My control center is way out of whack. It has gotten worse as this year has progressed. Some days I feel like I really am doing pretty good, hovering around moderate imposter level and many days I feel like a complete charlatan. But let me be clear, every day I feel like I am faking it on some level. Every. Single. Day. What the it is changes day to day. But it is exhausting. What gets me though, is the tagline from the sign, Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires.

This I understand. It is in my power and my power only. It is my ticker tape alone…I need to read it, evaluate it, analyze it, and deal with it or ignore it. It will not be going away. What is hard about this is, it is 2020 (remember ***2020 [insert] eye-roll-heavy-sigh). 2020 has me re-visiting ALL my roles/jobs in life: mother, friend, actor, singer, writer, care-giver, creative spirit… and applying my ticker tape to them all. Too much time alone thinking and evaluating, damn you 2020 (fist shaking cursing at the sky). This is just fuel for the imposter wild fire.

Why though? Why can’t I feel the success of completion and joy from the highs of the roles/jobs without dwelling in the missteps or what-if’s of the past? Why do I force myself to re-live things that have long since been processed by others involved? Why does my brain fold back on itself to vacillate from moderate to extreme about whether or not I was, or am qualified to have done, or should be doing a job in the first place? If I have been hired, selected, chosen, or been volun-told, etc. for a role/job then somehow I have qualified for it, right? These qualifications are the water or fire extinguisher in this metaphor. Why are they so hard to remember, recall and focus on? Why does the imposter wild fire rage so easily?

Oh, imposter syndrome you are a wretched beast. My ticker tape will continue and my anxiety will ebb and flow from (hopefully) low to extreme. But as the sign says, Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires, so I will work at seeking the water, remembering where I put the fire extinguisher when the fire rages. I will breath deeply and recall that I was in fact hired, selected, chosen, or volun-told based on my unique qualifications and talents (in most cases) and therefore this imposter wildfire threat should ease if I carefully try to prevent starting it in the first place. At least in theory.

Life &… When the Smoke Clears

I feel like this is SO the metaphor for this year. None more apparent than when the actual smoke from fires blanketed the whole West Coast over the last few weeks. It rings true as sort of desperate message followed by a resigned hope. A feeling of far off optimism with a deep knowing that we have so much still to get through. The slog, the shit, the unknown devastation and journey through something before we can truly see the other side. It is so out of our control yet we know the feeling of the fresh air is near.

When the smoke clears, literally and figuratively, took over much of September as my daily mantra. Our skies darkened and ash covered the earth along with the rest of the West Coast and people headed inside to hibernate, separate and quarantine even more than they already were. The idea of taking a break and going for a walk or a deep breath of fresh air or even stepping outside to clear one’s head was not an option and not going to happen.

For me, in my work world, the literal smoke started to accumulate when we were about one week into the steep climb of learning to teach online. The smoke, from the memories of an “in person” classroom, were burning embers in my mind.

Let me explain an bit more. Teaching online is a BEAST! It is no picnic for any teacher. We are working harder than ever before. Trust me every teacher you know is working their ass off this year. And while this is the truth for all teachers right now, just before school started, I was thrown another whole class of students. I had the special treat of now teaching a 3rd-4th-5th grade split.

Please don’t get me wrong I LOVE teaching a split. and I love these kids. In fact I have taught a 3rd- 4th split for years by choice. But to add an entire class of 5th graders, onto our roster, 1 week before school started, with little to no curriculum, because oh-I-forgot-to-mention-these-are-highly-capable-kids-that-we-have-already-had-for-two-years-so-they-have-had-our-3rd-and-4th-grade-designed-materials, in a year when we are already at a disadvantage for delivering exceptional teaching and learning experiences, seemed like a cruel joke. GACK!

In a straight grade classroom, meaning one comprised of say only 4th graders, an elementary teacher is responsible for teaching; reading, writing (ELA), math, social studies, science, art and social and emotional lessons, daily. That’s about 5-7 lessons each day. It’s a lot. In a 3rd-4th split it doubles. Still a lot. but I love it. In this new class I now have 3 grades. This means that on any given day I am expected to be creating content upwards of 15-21 lessons (yes per day) to differentiate for my students.

Thankfully, I have a kick ass teaching partner and we divide and conquer, but it still an unattainable expectation and is more than either of us could handle well. We decided to “quaren-team” together in one classroom to make things more bearable. But our anxiety and stress levels had skyrocketed.

Then the actual smoke showed up. An uninvited, unwanted guest to a party that was already a bit of a nightmare. When it came we no longer went outside for brain breaks. We ran from our cars to our classroom and computers and then back out again after purchasing new curriculum with our money, seeking out lessons to support students, pleading for some sort of help all while sitting through unending Zoom calls and trying to assuage parents fears and convince ourselves that we can do hard things.

We had alternating breakdowns in our classroom without any escape to breath deeply, the fresh air we so desperately needed was mired in toxins. We didn’t take our lunches outside for sun therapy, we stayed sequestered inside our classroom, building lesson after lesson and feeling less and less like a teacher. And yet the echo of better things was always there, whispering… when the smoke clears

The shining light in this dark and smoky situation, that is learning in 2020, is that we have mostly returning kids that we have had for two or three years. We know them, they know us. Our 3rd graders are our only new kiddos and we are working hard to build those relationships. We feel fortunate that we already have a relationships with our returning families. We trust one another to do our best in a hard times, and still I find myself daydreaming of when the smoke clears

What do I mean by this…

When the smoke clears, I will see the students in person again. We can do school musicals, eat lunch together, see and hear kids playing on the playground. We can be a community again.

When the smoke clears, we will be rid of COVID and have a vaccine.

When the smoke clears, I can ditch all the masks! I can wear lipstick again (a big deal for me). I can see smiles, who has braces who doesn’t, who lost teeth and who is just about to.

When the smoke clears, we will have new leadership.

When the smoke clears, we will remember that people are important to be around, to see, to touch, to communicate with face to face. We will go to weddings, funeral, celebrations. We will hug, we will hold hands, we will dance and we will kiss the ones we love without fear of spreading disease.

When the smoke clears, I will cherish time teaching in person, making connections, building relationships. I will cherish LESS time on the computer. I will be giddy at seeing kids in the classroom raise their actual hands, sit up and share, giggle with their friends, read quietly on the carpet.

When the smoke clears, it will all be different. But when will it clear? Will it be different, better, healthier?

When the smoke clears…

The literal smoke is gone for us in the PNW but the figurative smoke still weighs us down it lingers like a sewage spill. Still there is more smoke on the horizon…

The smoke of the looming election divides us when, in this pandemic, we should be doing everything we can to unite.

The smoke, pulls us in so many different directions for our families, students, children, co-workers, parents, etc. It makes us wear so many hats that our emotional stability is maxed out.

The smoke of COVID has people so fragile and unsure about their health that they are disconnecting from healthy, safe activities to participate in. They are disconnecting from people.

The smoke of online teaching/learning is pulling us further and further away from one another, further from connection, further from understanding, further from being human and kind.

2020 IS FILLED WITH SMOKE, IT IS A DUMPSTER FIRE and it is not going to end and some magical storm that clears it all up while everything returns to “normal”. THERE IS NO NORMAL. Everything is going to be different.

We will not go back to things the way they were because we have changed, things have changed. We have all have learned something new, practiced a new skill set, implemented new routines, gained knowledge and will bring this with us to our new reality.

So I wonder, what will life truly be like when the smoke finally does clear?

To all my family and friends and people I don’t know who were and are literally uprooted, moved from their homes while watching their lives burn to the ground I am… sorry. It does not seem enough. I can not imagine the grief you are dealing with. I grieve with you. But honestly, when will it end? Even today… there are more fires burning, more smoke filling the air, more ash raining down.

What will we do when it does clear? What will we discover or dedicate ourselves to, to make things better. What will we have learned to change the way things were, because frankly that is what was got us into this situation.

What are your plans for when the smoke clears?

Life &… The First Year Teacher

First year teachers have it rough.  It is a scary year of insurmountable pressure, overwhelming anxiety and failures/lessons to be learned by both teacher and student alike. It can be isolating and exhilarating, terrifying and satisfying.  Typically, the first year teacher is hired before school and thus immediately embarks on their new year-long-anxiety-filled reality. Stress nightmares are coupled with dreams of developing engaging lesson plans, creating unique art projects (insert late night Pinterest searches here), culling meaningful social and emotional activities all while organizing, collecting items and meticulously setting up the perfect classroom on little to zero budget (again…Pinterest) consume the mind with endless possibilities and challenges.  We teachers are able to do this because we realize we only really have to do it once. You only have one first year teaching.  Even if we move or switch schools, though it may be our first year teaching in a new place it will NEVER be our first year teaching again, EVER! Right?

Trying to keep the fun in the ZOOM classroom… Crazy Hair Day Spring 2020

Insert fall 2020…

That could be the end of this post but it is not because I am realizing that we are now ALL first year teachers and we will need to rally together. This year is going to be tough and full of challenges for sure, but as a teacher I know that the magic of teaching might also be found in the most unexpected places.  

Together (teachers, students and parents/families) as a collective, we are wading fast, into a deep dark water; a sea that is unknown and may have currents that guide us forward or push us back.  There may be creatures that help us along the way or barriers that force us to make hard choices and for sure there will be many things that we have not learned ….yet, that when we look back on  we can say, “We did it!”  We barely know how to dog-paddle at this point.  We did learn some valuable things in the spring but this time we are told that we have to swim successfully and effectively for the unforeseeable future. GACK! The nightmares have started, in fact the nightmares have been constant for most people I know since the closure of school as we knew it back in March.

This will not be the year to shine brighter than others or to try that BIG project you have been putting off trying. This is not the year to take on extra duties and join all the teams.  Instead, this is the year to struggle, to overcome, to seek out new ways of learning and teaching, to ask for help and be willing to help those in need, to try new things daily, to be kind, adventurous and present. This is the year that we as teachers buckle down, strap in and hang on tight to one another while simultaneously holding on to our students and families.  Because make no mistake we are in this together and we are ALL first year teachers.

Students are going to need to teach themselves some time-management skills like none they have ever had  before.  They are going to have to teach themselves to ask for what they need from their teachers because Zoom calls are a sad substitute for togetherness and creative discourse.  Students are going to have to teach their parents that their struggles and failure, while in the learning process, is sometimes the greatest way to learn the lesson.  They are going to have to teach each other that although they are not in class, physically, together that they can still be kind and caring and build lasting relationships with classmates.

Parents and family members are going to have to teach themselves to breathe deeper, pause and breath again.  They are going to have to teach themselves to watch and support while their student struggles and experiences discomfort.  These opportunities are often where the magic happens and learning is palpable. Failure is an option… in fact failure is often the mother of genius ideas, creations and new ways of thinking. Parents are going to have to teach their children that although school is not what we traditionally have experienced, school will have meaning and joy, opportunities for growth and community. Parents will need to teach themselves to trust the process, trust the student and trust the teacher. School will be different… and different, although uncomfortable, can teach us perseverance, beautifully.

And teachers… we are going to need to teach and practice grace.  This is new to everyone, NO ONE KNOWS HOW TO TEACH PERFECTLY IN THESE NEW CIRCUMSTANCES. It matters not how long you have taught, be it one year, twenty-five or none, we are all going to be experiencing first year teaching again.  This year will be a lot of work, just like our first year was.  It will be filled with anxiety and strife but just like our first year teaching, it will also be filled with joy.  We are going to have to teach ourselves to ask hard questions, to be uncomfortable and to learn from our own discomfort. We are going to have to teach more intentionally, more thoughtfully, more supportively, more diversely and more clearly than ever before.  We will need to put in different and probably longer hours. We will need to teach ourselves better time management, streamlining of lessons and carefully designed community building and social/emotional learning opportunities for our students, daily.  We have the opportunity to learn so much ourselves and yes it is going to be HARD!  We are going to have to teach our asses off.  But we can do it.  I know this because just like every teacher I know that is still teaching, we have done it before.  Maybe not like this… remotely, on a computer, without kids in a physical classroom, but make no mistake we have all survived a first year teaching before and we CAN do it again.

We, students, parents/families, and teachers, will all need to rely heavily on supporting one another.  We will need to allow for mistakes and lessons learned.  We are going to fail, each and everyone one of us, and yet we will rise up and try again.  This is what education is all about.  And oh boy, is it scary.  We will need to teach and learn that although this is hard but, WE CAN DO HARD THINGS! 

I know that I personally am terrified to not be able to rely on past experience. To have no clue how each lesson will roll out, how students will respond and if I will be effective because I have never taught this way before is the stuff of nightmares. However, the one truth that I know I can count on as we submerge ourselves in this dark uncharted water is… WE ARE ALL FIRST YEAR TEACHERS ON THIS VOYAGE… TOGETHER.  

Life &… Social Distancing- Volume 2: A Practice in Professional and Personal Development


Here we are, week 2, continuing to navigate uncharted water, uncertain of what may be ahead of us, unclear of what is to come. Surprisingly, I have found that I am a busier than imagined I would be, albeit at a much slower pace. That sounds like an oxymoron I realize but it is true. I have found that I am seeking opportunities to grow and build upon skills that have collected some dust. I am finding new ways to incorporate technology into many of my current practices, sometimes with ease, sometimes the learning curve on this is STEEP! My brain is in a constant state of creating and processing.


I am adjusting to a time frame with no real boundaries, I can actually go to the bathroom when I need to, not just at recess and lunch, teachers out there…am I right? This, I confess, I really like! I am getting up early or sleeping a little later. I am taking my time with everything.  I dive deeply and get lost in a project and savor the time it takes to get it done rather than whiz through and hope it is good enough. I have the luxury of being able to read for hours or binge watch Netflix late into the night, even on a school night,  because tomorrow I still have time to get it all done (though I still fall asleep on the couch by 10:00 p.m.).  


This time frame with no real boundaries is not for everyone. This slower state is making some people mad, some crazy and some anxious and depressed.  Our world has been so over scheduled for so long and now that there is no schedule, people simply don’t know what to do with the time. I am mostly an extrovert and I like to have things to do. I thrive with people. I love my job and my creative work, all which has me out of my house and interacting with people, BUT I also love my downtime. Now, that is all we have, downtime. This can be isolating. It has been a huge shock to the system. There was no slow ease into it.   It was abrupt, sudden, immediate and sprinkled with an enormous amount of unknown and uncertainty that is causing serious discomfort.


But what if we all lean into it?  What if we take all the time we need before moving on to the next lesson, or activity, or project? What if we learn to relish this gift of time?  I have this constant odd feeling like I am in a fight scene in an action movie where everything switches to extreme slow mode, like in the Matrix, then it speeds back up?  You know the one I mean, right? The only difference is we are caught in the slowdown, the stillness. We are stuck here for the unforeseeable future. It is here that we need to find solace, for a while, before the pace picks back up, until it is safe to return to the speed of life before.


I worry for sure.  My parents are older, my family is large and widespread.  I have family members and dear friends that are already immunocompromised.  I worry about my students, and their families and other folks in the community where I work, where I live and world-wide.  I worry about co-workers and colleagues across the nation as we all figure out what to do to continue our job. I worry about all those people out of work and all the people still working in the public sector, unable to distance themselves from others. 


I worry… but that is not all I do, I also revel.  I revel in the stillness. I celebrate the silence when I get up early, when everyone else is still asleep and I am able to write my feelings down, to process what is going through my head.  I listen more carefully to the noises in my house and all around me. I have tuned back in to the soundtrack of our family unit, back together again under one roof. I hear the birds, more clearly, in the trees as I walk outside. I experience, more intently, new music and old favorites.  I feel the warmth of the welcomed sunshine on my face as I spend time outside reading, walking, or working while the weather is nice. I am taking time to taste and enjoy food, mostly prepared by my husband; there is no rushing to get out the door or to the next event on the calendar, no packing a lunch to eat later in a rushed  lunchroom. I am working hard to find calm in the storm by living presently, every minute. I am doing my best to give myself and those around me grace to do the same.


I do not see this as a time to change everything.  I am, instead, seeing it as a way to practice everything. I want to try more things I have only dabbled in, learn skills I need to be successful in this slowdown, practice the things I have neglected, and focus on the things that have been working but could be better.  This is time for professional and personal development, I am going to lean into it. The excuse, “If only I had more time…”, no longer applies, or at least not for now. So, go ahead, go slow, take your time because we may never have a gift of time like this again.

Life & … Social Distancing- Volume 1


I title this entry Volume 1 as I imagine I will have more to write about as we navigate this never before time in our lives and world.  Nevertheless, I thought I would start this madness with something positive that I experienced. I know it is hard  to be at home, away from work, isolated, losing financial welfare, stressed about this-that-and-everything, to varying degrees.  But under the heaviness of this weighted blanket of emotional eruption I had the most amazing night with my children.  

At 18 and 20 my girls very rarely read for fun. They are both typically busy schooling and reading the mandated assignments.  However, I had a thought that I would start reading picture books to my students over the next few weeks in an effort to stay connected to my elementary kiddos.  I piled all my girl’s old picture books on the coffee table in anticipation of sorting the ones I would start reading to my students. Not long after, my girl’s came and sat down with me in the living room slowly picking up the books, squealing with delight or coo-ing with nostalgia,  remembering each story.

I shared my idea of virtually reading  to my students and they quickly jumped on board wanting to participate, too.  Addison, home from college, has online classes for the rest of her academic year but huge chunks of free time so she wanted something else to do.  Delaney still unsure what the next 6 weeks (+) of her senior year of high school might look agreed that this could be a fun project.

Suddenly, I was sitting across from them as they took turns reading these picture books that I read to them when they were younger.  They did the voices, they played some characters just like I had years ago, they added their own spin and enthusiasm to characters. I  was the audience. IT WAS BEAUTIFUL! We laughed so hard, we cried. We recalled events and times around each book, trying to remember who gave them these stories of their childhood.  Each girl shared their favorite and I was in heaven. 

I highly recommend this no matter what age your child is.  It was an experience that I never knew I was missing but I will be a memory I never forget.  They were pure perfection to my mother heart and soul. As I sat watching them with complete adoration, I was impressed with their poise and self-assuredness.  I had that “Father of the Bride” moment when I imagined them as their little girl selves, The reality is different; they are both such amazing women , no longer little girls.  My daughters are strong individuals, filled with light and dark, love and kindness, and I am so very lucky to know and love them deeply.  

It was just us.  No friends, no phones, no distractions… and it was fantastic.

I understand that this COVID-19 quarantine is hard, devastating, uncomfortable, aggravating etc. … I am not naive to that but there is beauty in this chaos.  If you have a moment to lift the weight of distress and peak at the creativity that is near, try it, you too might be amazed at the power of social distancing.

Life & … The Post Show Break Up



Do you remember your first love? Your mad teenage crush?  Maybe a new beautiful relationship or simple intense infatuation?  Whatever scenario you remember you can most likely remember the amount of time you spent thinking about that person, that relationship  There were probably many minutes, hours or weeks spent daydreaming about the object of your affection. You may have fantasized or imagined scenarios playing out involving the two of you. Maybe you have even been lucky enough to have lived through or are currently involved in a wonderful relationship.  Now think of playing a part in a show as similar to a relationship. The intensity of the relationship is equal to the power you feel as you fall in love with the show.

I recently was involved in a show that I absolutely fell in love with.  It was not an easy show.  It was not a light, jazz hands, sparkly kind of show.  It was instead a deeply emotional and timely show about mental illness, lack of communication, and letting go of love to be able to live.  It was a BIG show in every sense of the word. This show was a 2 hour rock musical, much like an opera; constant and intense. There were six cast members. It was passionate and fierce. This show, while being mentally, physically and emotionally taxing was the most fun creative challenge… and I absolutely LOVED it.  

I was in a relationship with this show, the cast and the supporting players.  I was mentally living with my character and with the other five characters for five months. The cast had a strong bond and the relationships between the characters were intense.  It was magical, like any new relationship can be. It was one of those rare times in life where all the people were working together toward a shared goal. Relationships were forged instantly and built on respect and honesty. Our collective energy was shared and celebrated regularly.  

I fell head-over-heels for all of  it. This show was extremely challenging, full of hard work and dedication, demanding of my time and commitment while being completely soul fulfilling, extremely fun and exciting… just like a good relationship should be.  

It is now done. Gone. Finished. Complete. Like many breakups, it ended abruptly.  I knew it was coming, of course, but I was not ready for it to be over.  Suddenly, I was not seeing the people I had been seeing 4-5 times per week for hours on end.  I no longer needed to interact with the character, to inhabit the traits, or remember the songs and scripted lines, leaving empty space in my mind. The constant need to experience the feelings, emotions, actions, physicality, and relationships of this character, or relationships to the other characters was no longer necessary. I had to let it all go. With a show that you fall in love with this seems to happen slowly, over time, with sadness and longing.  With other shows, that were more like a fling or a one night stand, this process can less jarring, more immediate. But make no mistake you have to break up with the show. 

Of course this kind potent breakup does not happen every time. For me it happens only when I feel profoundly connected to a show and its cast.  In fact, I have been walking around feeling a void like I have misplaced something, but I am not sure what. I have been unsure of what to do with my new found free time and have been looking for other shows to go to, to see if there is magic in them that might help ease my breakup blues.

Like many breakups this take some time to get over.  Each day away from the show separates you, a little bit more, from the constant presence that was in your mind/body/soul .  Each new day offers the opportunity to focus back on yourself and the real people and relationships in your life.  I know some people love to jump right into a new show, however, for me, especially with this last show, I need time to reconnect with real life.  I need time to return focus to myself, my family, my work, my writing and the relationships that live, forever, in my heart.

I have come to realize that breaking up is part of the joy of doing theater, for me.  I learned so much throughout the process of becoming and letting go of this last character. I was honored to play her; she was a force to be reckoned with. I worked hard to portray her with dignity, grace and authenticity.  I felt as if I was involved in a crash course in empathy and humanity. Little bits of this character; her strength, her vulnerability, her perseverance have stuck with me and I hope that these traits will continue to linger and get woven into the fabric of who I am.   

… And like all breakups, good or bad, over time there will be the passing of this love affair and prospect of new love.  I know a fun crush or deep romance, in the form of a new show or character, will show up on the horizon and it will be time to fall in love once again.  Until then, I am going to enjoy this breakup and remember the good times we had.  


Life &… Anxiety


It is a tale as old as time, just when you think things are going to turn out one way, they end up being something quite different.  As many of you read in my last entry, Addie had a bit of a medical issue that we thought was severe dehydration and possible heat stroke.  Though none of the tests she had in the ER pointed to this, these tests also did not point to anything else either. This story doesn’t end so simply, as my last entry might seem. In fact, the facade of  Addie’s, “strength, her steadiness, her determination and drive that she has developed“, to deal with stressful situations was beginning to turn on her, and attack her with equal determination in the form of severe anxiety and depression.  Things were not in fact clear to us… but we would learn the root of the issue soon enough.

Let me back up and fill in some of the events leading up to what we now understand.  On Sunday of her weekend away with her crew team she was benched from competition.  This was no surprise as she was in the ER until after midnight.  The day seemed uneventful, medically, until they were at the airport waiting for their flight.  About 2 hours pre-flight she started to shake, uncontrollably, again.  This time it was in both arms. We got, yet another call from Coach Mike, unsure of what they should do. “Should they stay in Sacramento and head back to the ER?” or “Should they board the plane and get back up to Seattle where we could meet her and decide on a plan then?”

We opted for Seattle and met her at the airport.  She walked off the plane looking exhausted and still shaking.  It was shocking.  The odd movement in her body was unnatural.  I was not prepared for the gut punch reaction of terror I felt.  I can best describe it as what looked like a Parkinson’s tremor in both arms.  We thanked Coach Mike and quickly made our way to Swedish ER, a place that holds haunting memories and much PTSD for my husband and I.

They quickly got us in a room and started loading her up on Ativan, a medication is used to treat anxiety. It is meant to act on the brain and nerves (central nervous system) to produce a calming effect. The hope was this would calm her nervous system enough so that the ER could run additional tests and imaging to rule out brain evidence of movement disorders: Parkinson’s, essential tremors, brain lesions, Huntington’s etc.

After four doses of Ativan, (enough to knock out the largest of people and remember Addie is 5’2″), the tremors subsided enough to get an image.  It was about 1-AM when they took her to the imagining machine and told me to wait in the dark, deserted and yet too familiar waiting area. Kaycee had gone home by now to get sleep in case we would need to switch roles the next day.  I stayed with Addie, alone with my thoughts.  I was not able to talk to anyone, I was scared and I was exhausted.  I knew that I needed to rest, but that was next to impossible sitting straight up, in the hard ER chair.  Instead, I watched my baby girl as she slept in a very drug induced state and waited for someone to read the scans.

It was a little after 5-AM when the doc came in and said,  “the scans were clear, that nothing showed up on the images, we could go home.”  Relief flooded in followed by the  question of , then what was going on.  They sent us home with prescriptions for muscle relaxers and orders to see our regular physician: mystery UNsolved.

We made the 6 something boat home and by the time we rolled into the driveway I had been up for well over 24 hours.  Addie slept most of the day away, extremely groggy and emotional  from the medicine. We had to recount all the details multiple times until the meds wore off and she was clear-headed again.

It was Monday of the last week of her school, the week before finals and we were unsure what to do next.  What do we do? There is no evidence of anything…do we need more tests?  Is it safe for her to go back to school?  Do you keep her home for a few days?  Do you keep her home forever and never let go?

In the end, Addie wanted to go back. It was important to her to be ready for finals and anyway, in just 10 days she would be home for the summer.  So we listened.  We got her a massage, scheduled follow up appointments with her primary doc and a movement specialist, filled her prescriptions and sent her back to school a day later.  She had one more episode a couple days later, in the middle of the night, but she was able to take the muscle relaxers and get her body calmed down within two restless hours.  Little did we realize that pressure was still building like a volcano about to blow.

A couple weeks later, she had not experienced anymore movement episodes but she seemed to be so angry, all the time, at everything.  After one angry outburst I followed her back to her room, after she had been quite rude, to say that she needed to speak nicer to me when… the volcano BLEW!  Vicious, vitriolic statements of “unsupportiveness”, “dismissive behavior” and “you have no idea what’s going on”, flew at me at a rapid pace. I fired back a bit but it escalated and all I could do was back out of her room shocked and, quite frankly, pissed.

Had I not supported her?  Was I the uncaring dismissive parent she was accusing me of?  Did I really have no idea what was going on?  Well, of the last question I had the answer: I truly did not know at all what was going on. I walked outside where Delaney and Kaycee were, and replayed the scene to them.  Equally shocked we had no answers.

Over the week to come I felt broken.  I was so thrown off by her behavior and accusations that I tried to recount all the times I may have been insensitive, unkind, dismissive, uncaring…  I thought I had been doing well or as well as I could as a parent navigating our last four years.  I tried to be there for my kids the best I could while dealing with my husband’s cancer diagnosis, treatments, surgeries, infections, etc.  All the while continuing to at least try to maintain some level of regular life while dealing with the loss of our “old” normal and the acceptance our “new” normal (still working on this by the way).

Let me tell you this was a heartbreaking week of an unparalleled guilt-shame spiral.  Plus, I kinda hate to admit it now, but I was really pissed at the hurtful-hateful things she had said because in all the racking of my brain I really thought I had managed to continue to be supportive, kind, thoughtful and honest.  Things were not adding up.  The noxious things she spewed at me were not in fact the truth of our history but instead a cry for help.

Later in the week,  after Kaycee and I talked several times about how to approach her, he went to her to have a necessary conversation about what was really going on.  During a task, in the backyard, in the middle of pulling weeds she broke down.  She revealed she had been depressed and anxious much of last year.  Her freshman living situation was not great.  She felt extremely isolated and her anxiety left her feeling sad and thinking dark thoughts.  She did not mean any of what she said but she also didn’t understand why she was so angry all the time.

Her cry for help was heard and more importantly understood It was time to step back in as parents to our child. She was vulnerable and honest and we understood the seriousness of her truth. We made a plan to step in and support her: we needed to get her back to a healthy place.

The pressure on our teens/young adults today is incredible.  The constant chatter of social media provides a perfectly awful narrative of unrealistic expectations.  It demands participation in vapid comparisons of this or that, nothing of real importance.  In fact, I feel that social media does a better job of separating us, dividing us than it does connecting us.  Adding insult to this pressure is the expectation of college and all the duress that goes with it. Then, the unfortunate reality of the financial obligation to finish and under-graduate degree is a staggering.  All these demands, plus a million other things, seem to be stifling teens/ young adults creative spirit, confidence and self-worth.

Once we had a plan Addie got to work on the action.  She worked really hard this summer getting healthy.  She and I realized the volcanic explosion was not made of real lava but it was a necessary explosion to take notice of.   I am happy to say that I now see for what it was: a serious cry for help.  Sometimes saying the meanest things to the person who will love you always and will forgive always, especially when the honest truth is revealed, is the only way to start to get what you need. Addie now has an emotional support bunny, Nimbus, that she took back to school. Yes, she went back to school!  This was her goal.  Nimbus keeps her company in her room plus, she has five other suite-mates. Most importantly a room to herself and no snoring roommate to keep her up all night.  And I can’t remember the last time she was so happy.

Going forward we still have a lot of work to do. As individuals and as a family we are working on recovering from our past and leaning into a healthier future. It will not be easy for any of us: facing emotions… real emotions… the deep and honest truths, that hide in the dark corners, never is.  Each one of us, in this family, has work to do.  We are all working on our commitment to be healthier, mentally, emotionally and physically.  It has its ups and downs, moments of clarity and times of opaque uncertainty.  It is a work in progress… but it is progress.

The tremors, the uncontrollable shaking has not resurfaced.  The pressure of the volcano blew and with it the release of the anxiety manifesting physically for Addie has not returned.  She is happy, happier than I remember her being in a long time.  And life continues… So, love the ones you live with, the ones you love, the ones you fight with and the ones hiding their pain.  And listen for the words unsaid… for they are often the greatest call for help.

There are lyrics in the song, A Safe Place To Land, by my favorite singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles, that I feel have meaning beyond measure:

Be the hand of a hopeful stranger
A little scared but you’re strong enough
Oh, be the light in the dark of this danger
‘Til the sun comes up

My hope it to try to be a little more vulnerable, a little stronger, a lot healthier and open to climbing out of the darkness, together.


National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline:

1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

Call 1-800-273-8255
1-310-855-HOPE (4673) or 1-800-TLC-TEEN (852-8336)

Life &… Late Night ER Visits


Last night Kaycee and I decided to watch a movie all by ourselves, like a date night at home.  Delaney was working until 7 pm and Addie is still at school, and in fact this weekend she was in Sacramento at a regatta for with her college crew team.  We made a nice dinner sat down and turned our phones on vibrate and relaxed, no distractions. See one thing I hate is watching a movie with people when they constantly check their phone. Do you really need to be electronically so attached that you can’t be without it for a few hours? We have a loose rule that you need to turn your phone to vibrate and turn it over if we are watching something.


The movie was a good one and although we had stops and starts, for cleaning up dinner and bathroom breaks (the beauty of the at home movie), we were getting through it. Then at about 8:55 pm I heard my phone vibrate.  Ignoring it, I focused on the movie…we were at the end and it was the climax…. buzz… buzz.  Who could it be? Focus on the movie, it is nothing that needs my immediate attention, I am sure. Buzz…buzz. By now Delaney was home from work and was snuggled on the couch next to me, all my people were accounted for… buzz…buzz… BUZZ.


Little did I know that Kaycee’s phone was buzzing equally as much.  He was the first to reach for his phone and when he did he started murmuring, “um, what?”.  Something is happening… turn off the movie, “Something is wrong with Addison.”


My heart sank.  That statement, “something is wrong…”, holds so much daunting power. It is a phrase that could change, might change, may change EVERYTHING… but EVERYTHING is still the unknown in that moment.  


The texts were coming from Addie, in Sacramento, having a medical emergency.  She had been a little shaky after her day racing and thought her blood sugar was low.  It had started in her right arm but after 2-hours and food and Sprite she was shaking all over, uncontrollably.  TWO hours?!?!? That is a long time to wait to call but she is adulting…. in a hotel… with her college crew team… in Sacramento… remember?


I immediately when to the phone to call her and as the phone rang a sort of pall seemed to blanket me.  I had immediate flashbacks to when Kaycee was sick, the calm, unemotional demeanor, that was needed so often during urgent situations, took over.  I knew that my nervousness needed to be shelved while I spoke with her, I needed to put my mommy-fix-it-now-energy away and embrace the stoic fact-gathering persona I have used in the past as I spoke with her.


Addie had called her coach by now, wise girl, because when she answered I was on speakerphone with her, her two roommates for the weekend and her coach, Mike.  Coach Mike is a paramedic and therefore knows a thing or two about what to do in a medical situation, for sure. This gave me the slight edge of comfort I needed to maintain my investigative manner and make a plan.  My one question to Coach Mike, really the only question I needed to ask to know what needed to happen next was, “If this was your kid, what would you do?”  His answer… go to the emergency room… and so off they went.


This situation is not ideal.  It is yet another new challenge in the process letting go of children as they learn to navigate adulthood. Let’s be real, you want to be with your kid when things are scary and urgent and medically unknown.  You want to fix everything while holding their hand, rubbing their back, calming their nerves. But when your child is 19. learning to adult and they are hundreds of miles away, it is wonderful to know that there are other adults who can step in; other kind souls that care for your kids in nerve-racking, uncertain times.


I texted my brother and sister-in-law, who live in the Bay Area, and put them on alert in case she needed family sooner than we could be there.  We started looking at flights and times for the next day out of Seattle, if necessary. What I didn’t do, what I learned from three years of living with cancer in our home, was go to the internet and google all the possible reasons this could be happening.  


(PERSONAL ADVICE NOTE: People… do not do this, EVER!  It is a black-hole that will have you so twisted that you cannot call upon your calm when you need it most.  Let the professionals do their job and then when there is a diagnosis, that is the time to do your research…not before!!!)


Once at the ER Coach took over the texting and was so great about letting us know what was going on: IV, blood work, labs…etc.  All came back good and in the end they concluded she was severely dehydrated. After two IV’s she was discharged and sent back to the hotel.  Poor Pacific NW girl is not used to the sun. Although she said she drank a lot of water clearly it was not enough.


After speaking with her this morning she reports she is exhausted and very sore, but fine.  Five hours of shaking leaves your muscles pretty worked out and tight. She is moving slow but said she feels SO MUCH better.


While I don’t want things like this to happen ever, I am thankful for the support and levelheadedness of my girl, her coach and in the heat of the moment, myself.  I have had more practice than I want with honing this skill and yet I feel that I am better able to cope with and clearly examine what is needed, energetically and emotionally, to better deal in crisis.  


I don’t want my kids to grow up and grow away from us… it is an uncontrollable situation that is moving at what seems like lightening speed.  I want them to stay small and innocent and unharmed, forever. Remember that scene in Father of the Bride, when Steve Martin hears his daughter tell him she is getting married and looks over to her and sees an eight-year-old little girl, I want my kids to stay young forever.  And yet I am loving the adults, the grown-up humans they are becoming.


In some ways they will always remain young, in my memories, at least.  But in real life I know they are growing up, adult-ing, finding their way in this crazy and unpredictable world,  All the while they are working hard to learn the skills they need to cope with these type of situations without us present. They are working to understand and strengthen the skills they possess to solve their own problems.  Meanwhile they are learning to recognize the good people they are surrounded by; people who can support them, not just mom and dad. (Thanks Coach Mike, Teammates, Uncle Terry and Aunt Lisa, friends, medical staff ,etc.)


Yes, this was a long night of worry.  Yes, it was hard and scary and unfortunate.  Yes, it was emotionally exhausting and extremely hard to not be available and present for my kid.  BUT I am proud of her strength, her steadiness, her determination and drive that she has developed.  Last night is just another reminder that, no matter what our age, we are all growing-up and adult-ing together, because honestly it never stops, right? And as far as keeping it together in stressful times, the immediate need for that demeanor has passed. I am off to have a good cry a hot shower and squeeze and love extra hard on the people in my life today.

Life &… Fear & Bravery

Image result for brave fear

Time has been flying by and I have been caught in the whoosh of it all.  I have taken my youngest daughter on college trips (no decisions yet), I have started rehearsing for two different shows at the same time, I have started the run of one of said shows, I have started a new project with my husband and some good friends working on creating something I have never done and have no real knowledge of how to do it… all the while continuing to work full time and doing the everyday “stuff” that makes up my daily life. Within all of this madness I have been experiencing an odd a feeling of accomplishment-drive-creativity-hard work-… a sense of purpose that comes with both repetition and challenge. By this I mean that throughout the normal routines of usual life activities a sense ease in knowledge is present.  In contrast, the new-different-challenging-unusual experiences, that I am taking on, add thread of fear, and thus a need for bravery. Somehow these two opposites seem to strike a balance for me; ease vs. unease, bravery vs. fear.

Yeah I realize that sounds a bit weird… stick with me. I find that when I am experiencing fear in any given situation it usually comes from the unknown.  Because of this fear I find I have to challenge or push myself, whether it be creatively, emotionally, academically, physically etc. to do the work that needs to be done to get to a place of comfort with the skill.  In order to do this I must call on my bravery. I ask it to support me and fear as we work to better understand the task at hand. This is not to say that I live my daily life in fear…quite the contrary, but I do look for things in life that stir an internal response that comes from my sense of fear. I actually invite fear in and bravery usually follows. I find that if I am challenging myself, not living a complacent, easy life, then a little bit of fear is always lurking on the edges, sometimes pounding down the door.  I try to make friends with the fear in order to share in the energy that bravery brings as she slides in secretly behind fear.

Fear essentially becomes a coach pushing me a little bit further in my creative goals, a voice that questions whether I can or if I will finish something. I try not to entertain paralyzing fear, though sometimes it shows up like an unwanted guest and is not often accompanied by bravery.  I try to maintain a balance somewhere between discomfort and a nauseating unease. When I feel this uneasy energy I try to lean into it and that is when the most magical thing happens… bravery appears. Something inside of me, bravery I think, guides me to a better place. This relationship between fear and bravery somehow ignites my creativity, energy,  and drive. Bravery takes over as the coach.  I start to feel more emotionally, academically, physically, creatively and personally satisfied, like I am leading a better more fuller life. It is as if fear and bravery have just hoodwinked me with the ole’ good cop bad cop routine.

Let me  apply this theory of mine to my classroom. I teach my students throughout the year a lesson about brain research. Brain research tells us that discomfort and unease is where the most learning takes place. My job is to teach them and so therefore I am constantly looking for ways to challenge them to get to a unease that supports learning.

I witnessed my incredibly brilliant mentor teacher explain this brain development research when I was student teaching and still use this model today.  Imagine that your brain is made up of four circles one within the other. The inside circle is a dark brain stem cavity that houses uncontrollable emotions and fear while the outermost circle is the opposite, it is the land of the unicorns and rainbows, puppies and ice cream, or anything else that makes you extremely happy.  Both in the brain stem where emotions are out of control and in the outermost circle of fluff and fun no real learning happens. I repeat, there is no actual learning that takes place in either of these spaces.

People who stay or live in their brain stem are in a constant state of high anxiety, fear and extreme disabling, discomfort to the point where no input from any source will stick.  In other words no learning happens, period. People who live in the land of the unicorns and rainbows have the opposite reaction but the same problem. No learning happens here because there is no challenge. In this circle there is only interaction with knowledge and skills that you have already acquired.  Hanging out here is fun and enjoyable, in fact it is a great place to visit on occasion but let me be clear no learning happens in either place. NONE, zip, zilch, nada!

The two middle circles then become the best place to hang out to learn the most.  The key is you have to be ready and willing to experience a bit of unease and even true discomfort. Think of a time where you have tried something new. How did you feel inside your mind, in your stomach?  Were you hands sweating, mouth dry?  Did you have sudden urge to use the bathroom, can you feel a sting in your eyes?

For example, I like to sing and act so recently I have returned to the theater.  But in order to do these things I must audition.  Auditioning is a crazy, uneasy and difficult thing. I can be as prepared as possible yet every time I go to an audition I get butterflies in my stomach.  My nerves produce that sweaty palm feeling that takes over my body making me feel cold and hot at the same time. Fear is there for sure guiding me into the unknown, into something new that I have not done before. Each audition is different.

Why would I do something that makes me feel this uncomfortable?  Well, because the feeling when I walk out of the audition space, the one where bravery is patting me on the back, makes it all worth it. The rush of adrenaline, accomplishment, energy that bravery provides as it guides you to the next challenge is so worth it.  

It can be a never ending cycle if you let it.  Whether or not I get the part in the show is not the point (though I secretly hope I get cast, for sure).  The point is that I tried something new.  I learned something different, challenged myself in a way I hadn’t before or maybe in a way I had a million times but nonetheless I was challenged by fear  and learned each and every time  that bravery feels oh so good. 

I have heard it said many times that,

“You will miss 100% of the chances you don’t take.”

Do you really want to miss out on this life?   You may learn that you never want to do that again!  That is A-Okay! The point is that you LEARNED!!! You. Did. It.  You were  fearful and you conquered fear with bravery.  You did it without feeling out of control (brainstem) but rather balancing between  discomfort and unease..


You can apply this idea to learning to drive, going on a roller coaster, trying a new food, traveling to a new country, taking a test, reading a book, learning a language or simply participating in life with intention.  Complacency is nice once in awhile, hanging out with unicorns and rainbows is easy, it is vacation with sun and drinks… but come on, don’t you want more from life? Don’t you want to change, evolve, grow and learn? Invite fear in in small amounts and see if you can recognize when bravery follows, and just how far you come. Celebrate your success and then reach for the next challenge.  Be tricked by the magic of the two emotions, fear and bravery, and the powerful energy they contribute to your life. Don’t be scared, lean in gently and be ignited to seek out opportunities to light your creative fire.

Life &… Snow Days!



Well, here we are in the Pacific Northwest with the first snow storm in eleven or so years.  It is coming down pretty good out there and we probably got upwards of 6-8 inches of snow, overnight.  Many school districts, including ours, closed two hours early yesterday in an effort to get everyone to the safety of their own home. The grocery store lines were worse than a Thanksgiving day rush and the isles looked like barren wastelands, void of  basic sustenance like bread, veggies, and most importantly coffee! People were preparing for what the news was calling”snowmaggedon”.


What you have to understand, especially if you live anywhere where regular snowstorms are part of your world, is that 1-2 inches of show in the Pacific Northwest urban areas can cause bedlam.  We are just not prepared like those of you who experience this regularly. So the world in effect shuts down when even the threat and in this case the reality of 8 + inches of snow is upon us. But why do we have to call it “Snomaggedon” or “Snowpocolypse”?  Why don’t we re-frame our thinking and call it “Snirvana”, “Sneaven” or “Snowgri-La”?


I like the snow, in fact I love the beauty of the soft, quiet calm that wraps my world in stillness.  I like the feeling of the cool shiver running down my spine and the intake of the sharp cold in my lungs as I wander through the bright clean powder.  I love sitting inside, warm from the fire, watching the birds quick  and efficient movement to the feeders, in contrast to the peaceful calm that surrounds them. I am up early to take all this in on my own.  My time  in the mornings is precious, a way to reflect and organize my thoughts and feelings for the day.  Today, when I am greeted by a winter wonderland, this time feels even more valuable than usual, almost sacred.


I know that soon there will be children up,  outside playing and sledding through the yards, packing snowballs and lobbing them at one another, tracking in heaps of snow as they come to warm up by my tranquil fire… but that is part of the beauty of a snow day, too. The fun, the endless hours of creativity, the pure joy of being outside embarking on new adventures. It is wonderful to watch adults relishing in childhood memories in an attempt to recreate them and kids using their imaginations to build magical worlds new to them. Snow seems to bring out the inner child in us all.  


What I look forward to the most is something truly magical… it is when we are pulled away from electronic stimulation, social networking and the like into real situations with real live humans, having real experiences.  The joy of human connection seems to be  everywhere in the snow. The outside world pulls us into its mystical realm for hours.  I know this does not last forever, usually  only a day or so in our house, before the pull from devices creeps back in, but until it does I will savor every moment.


Then when the time comes to head back inside from the cold frozen world , the desire to thaw out and recharge for a bit takes hold, something equally extraordinary happens… we continue to come together. Board games and card games get resurrected, baking happens, toes get painted, beauty masks that have been hiding in the bathroom since Christmas get used, books are read, music gets played and danced to, naps frequently are taken, songs are sung, scripts are practiced, stories are written… creativity continues to thrive.


I realize that if snow was something that we encountered regularly this would not be such a magnificent and lovely escape from our regularly scheduled life-program.  But because it is rare to see this much snow, we Pacific Northwest humans get to relish in the awesomeness of how it changes our perspective for a time… at least that is how I am choosing to look at it.


I am not naive to think that there is not hardship with this much snow.  We live in an area that can handle rain like nobody’s business but in this icy form life as we know it comes to a halt.  In fact , the governor has already called a state of emergency  and the weather-people are predicting that this snow may be sticking around for over a week.  I know I will be feeling claustrophobic soon and that school may be extended until late June early July, but for the moment I want to live in this supernatural fantasy-land.  I want to take in the beauty, play with my family,  seek joy in the stillness and tranquility,  and enjoy the pause of life through this crystal lens… for the time being anyhow.  Because reality is, I know,  that soon it will all melt back to our watery-rainy-regularly-scheduled programming.


So… be safe, be well, be creative, be connected, be kind and be careful… and enjoy “Snarnia”.


** And as for all my teacher friends, this may mean that we are in school until July…so make the memories now, that can sustain us as we tack on days on to our school year. **

Life & … Laughter

laughterMy daughter Addison came home last week from college for a SURPRISE visit.  Truth be told her computer died and finals are this week so she needed to borrow another one from home. Thankfully she is only an hour away and she can just jump in the car, and viola! This unexpected visit filled me with joy. When I walked in and saw her beautiful smile I lit up inside. The papers I was supposed to be grading that night quickly became a distant memory.  My baby was home… and that was what I would be devoting my time to that night. No one else was home yet so I had her all to myself for a while. Addie and I giggled together as we made dinner. We cuddled on the couch reminiscing and tittering about memories of Christmas past (the tree and decorations are up).  We chuckled about odd and funny things that have been happening at school. Delaney arrived home later after work and the house began to fill back up with laughter. That memorable hum, the soundtrack of our home that had been one voice shy, was instantly restored. It became evident that while we had been missing Addie physically, we had also been missing our laugh-track, our giggles, our joy as a family unit. Not completely mind you, but it had been lessened by her void. I realized that we might need to work on getting more of the laughter, and joy back into our smaller family of three in her absence.

I started to ponder the benefits of laughter and searched for quotes, there are so MANY. Some quotes spoke directly to me, as quotes do, while other fell flat.

A good laugh heals a lot of hurts. — …

A good laugh is a mighty good thing, a rather too scarce a good thing. — …

A good laugh is sunshine in the house. — …

A smile is a curve that sets everything straight. —


I started to recall times in my life where laughter helped me to heal; a broken heart, wounded pride, a tense situation, a saddened mood ,a terrified outlook, an injured friend or even a darkened or depressed state.  Laughter can be so helpful, though sometimes only a temporary or surface fix. I began to wonder about times in my life when stories or memories echo with laughter, times that have stuck in my mind, that when I recall them I am able to relive the joy and mirth of that moment. Do you know what I mean?  Stories that, no matter where you are, if you think of them they bring a smile to you lips, a twinkle to your eye, a warm feeling inside.

This type of memory recall can have a significant effect for lightening moods, especially when shared with others who may have been involved.  But how often do we call up a friend, a family member, or reach out to a coworker to share that funny memory? Could the simple action of laughing together help lift the collective mood, to ease tension? The thing is, I have noticed that there is not enough laughter in our world lately and it seems to be affecting us all.

Moreover, brain research tell us that when laughter happens it is like a full-brain workout… cranial aerobics if you will. Laughter stimulates our cerebral cortex both physically and psychologically. Laughter becomes like jumper cables for our brain. While the left side of the brain works to process the verbal content of the joke the analytical right side tries to decipher the essence of the joke… the why of why it is funny, the intellectual connection for the humor. Here is the rub though… we don’t all laugh or find humor and joy in the same things, right?  What is hilarious to me is not so funny to others. So laughter can not be “used” in a one-size-fits–all manner. Maybe this is why we see so many people scouring the internet, connected to their phones, searching for GIF’s, meme’s, and YouTube sensations to make them giggle, snort, or guffaw… like junkies people are searching for a quick hit of joy to stabilize their brain.

Without question, there are big, HUGE issues that are causing rage and polarization in our lives. It seems that life can be one big ball of concern, fright, outrage, and depression about the state of things in our nation, state, city, home, school, etc. These feelings often trickle down from a bigger scope, into our hearts and minds, and manifest through our word our actions.  What is more frightening is how far the trickle down is reaching, the youngest of children seem to be carrying more burden and sorrow, rage and disconnect. The perpetuation of a culture of hatred and prejudice, anger and division is prevalent in the very young. It is as if we are constantly waiting to hear the next horrible tragedy, horrific decision or the unbelievable policy that has been put into place that lessens control  and balance of our reality.  This may be why so many people are actively seeking quick-hits of joyful escape.

Within this type of negative culture it sometimes feels difficult to find any joy or laughter unless you are on a constant hunt for it. I have seen my own daughters and their friends sit on their phones or computers for hours looking for things that make them laugh, sharing a snapchat, DM or text. Hell, I have even been known to get sucked into this rabbit hole myself. We reach for instant stimuli, artificial gratification to quickly lighten the mood. Our brains need something to help us recover from the pressure and the insensitivity of the culture surrounding us. Sometimes getting so swallowed up in this state, makes it hard to disengage with the electrical stimulation and re-engaged into the reality. However, making connections with real people, finding humor in daily experiences instead of canned photoshopped, pre-recorded, carefully orchestrated scenarios is so necessary if we want to live together in a kinder, gentler world, right?

How can we change this?  What can my part be? How can I make a difference or at least not buy into the doom and gloom mentality all day, everyday?  How do I find, light, laughter and joy today? Yes, one way for a quick fix is to head to the internet…there is a lot of funny and good and kind content out there but…. BUT, what if we challenge ourselves to seek out human interaction for stimulating our brains?  What if we search for other people who “get” the same kind of jokes to jump-start our brains, together? What if we look for the humanity in everyone we meet, assuming the best intentions in others? What if my pledge is to seek interactions that bring me humor, daily?  Hunt for the laughter throughout the day and be grateful for each giggle. Could this search help us fight the imbalance in our lives?

[Humanity] has unquestionably one really effective weapon—laughter. …

I am lucky in my daily work I often get to laugh a lot with children.  Most of the time we giggle about silly mistakes that I make. Laughing at myself in front of the kids allows them to see that mistakes are not bad, in fact mistakes can turn into a great laugh, a memory that when we share it again later we all still giggle.  In fact, the other day I was teaching a lesson about figurative language, more specifically imagery and boy… did I mess up. While I was reading a mentor text to 47 kids, the books words read, “My pink is like a ballerina’s tutu”  however, what I said was, “My pink is like a ballerina’s TATTOO.”  Fits of giggles and snickers erupted into a waterfall of laughter… it took me about two seconds and a quick glance to my teaching partner, who was laughing right along with the kiddos, to process what had escaped my mouth.  We laughed for a good few minutes. It was hard to pull them all back on track but we did finish the lesson and in the end we all finished with a shared joke and a smile. And this will happen again, no doubt, because when you teach all day sometimes your brain does funny things.  I welcome it. Now I have a shared story with 47 kids that will bring laughter and smiles to us all because we were there, we connected, we laughed. It was funny, it lightened the mood!


My favorite quote about laughter comes from the play Steel Magnolias;

“Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.” -by Robert Harling

So find the love, kindness and joy in others. Laugh it up, search for mirth, tee-hee and titter at silliness, call a friend and share a memory that makes you smile, or find something that makes you laugh so hard you may just pee a little in your pants! Because guess what… we can all laugh at that, am I right?

The search may be like like looking for hidden treasure, seemingly impossible and hidden well. Or it may be as simple as a shared glance at someone, a knowing look with someone that always makes you snicker. Whatever it is … just do it, do it NOW! Find the funny and share it with someone. Look everywhere for things that make you laugh. Focus and listen for the chuckles and chortles, the sounds of laughter and stories, the commonality in us all that reminds us that we are more alike than different.  Don’t take yourself too seriously. Hit the refresh button on all that is still good in our world. Find the jumper cables of laughter for your brain and start that engine! I have found the quickest way to feeling better is the joy I find laughter…





Life & …Yet

20181127_144255The YET… painted on my classroom door.


Yet… it is a tiny but powerful word.  All may seem out of reach, insurmountable, unattainable, lost even, until yet comes along and brings with it light and hope, faith and determination.  Yet is a way to have your attempts at something, your mistakes and failures, feel like steps towards a goal.  Yet has the power to ease frustration and have your many tries feel a bit like strength training.  Yet can also bring with it a sense of deep learning and hard work, with perseverance the goal. That is huge… to have the journey be where the riches lie rather than the destination. And let’s be real, once you reach your goal isn’t there another yet on the horizon, another higher peak to reach for?


Yet…does not always have to change things in life-altering ways… it can simply propel you to think more positively and lead you to exploring more opportunities, different paths.  For example… I always wanted to play musical instrument but didn’t have one…yet?  I had dabbled in many as a kid but never stuck with anything.  I also love to sing so I thought it would be fun to be able to play instrument and sing along. I have always been in awe of people that do this with ease and beauty, I longingly wanted to be part of that crowd… but I didn’t know how, it was too hard, too much work, too much time (do you hear the downward spiral of thoughts?). Until… I decided to try the ukulele but hadn’t found one…yet.  Purchased one then picked it up started strumming, didn’t sound great…yet.  I was playing (I use this term loosely at this point) but I didn’t know any songs…yet.  So, I jumped on the internet, downloaded an app, now I had songs to play but no one to listen…yet?  I shared my new love of playing/singing with my ukulele with friends and found a friend who always wanted to sing but didn’t have the courage…yet.  Now we sing together and sound great but but haven’t found the right venue to go public…yet.  Do you see what I mean? Yet is the power that pulls you, encourages you, leads you to the next yet.  It is a compassionate force that gently reminds you that you can do more, you can be more.  It is a growth mind set that is simple and concise, tiny but mighty. I don’t mean to sound trite but I have seen the power of yet transform the thinking process and re-frame the negative thoughts… I have experienced it!.  


As you may (or may not) have read in my last post I am an elementary school teacher and many of my students come to me with an intense need to be right on the first try, to have all the skills on board for learning at the first pass.  This, however, is not the reality of learning. They are highly capable or gifted kids that are not used to having to work too hard to understand, not comfortable with making mistakes and growing from them. In the beginning of the year, there is often a LOT of negative self talk, shame of failures and emotional upset when mistakes happen. Because of this I thought I would try the power of yet out on them…  have yet flip the script.  I started using yet as an exclamation, a reminder, a way of punctuating a statement to help students re-frame their goal. “Jackson, you did it that time.  You may not understand how to add fractions easily yet… but your determination is great!”  “Carmen, I love how much effort you put into your writing piece and although it may not be complete yet… I recognize how much better you understand sentence structure and your writing is getting better with each draft.”   Or simply having the students repeat with me, “ We may not have ____ …yet, but we will!” Do you see the difference yet makes? It isn’t whether the skills are learned quickly it is about taking the time to learn them deeply.  In other words you may not have the skill down pat… yet, but you will… somehow this little powerful word has made a huge difference for my students. I hear kids saying to each other often as a way to encourage their peers, to remind them to try again.  Less tears, less discomfort, less self shaming… and that is a big win!


Personally, I haven’t always relied on yet.  However, over the last few years I have come to lean into yet often. While trudging through my husband’s cancer diagnosis and the myriad of issues that accompany that; emotional struggles, physical ailments, complete lack of knowledge about said diagnosis and how to manage learning all we could about it, paired with trying to have continuity in our regular life, it quickly became very clear to me that allowing yet in to my life was necessary.  Yet, in fact, became my saving grace, a life raft in a sea of uncertainty.  Yet afforded me the freedom to fail and learn, to fall and rise, to break down and get back up again.  Yet let me tune out when I needed mental break and then lead me back to the knowledge that it is okay to not have it all perfect, all right, all together.  Yet reminded me that even when you think you “have it all together” there is still more to learn, higher peaks to reach … yet is an ever moving target, supporting and encouraging me to do and be better.  I picture yet as my silent cheerleader on the sidelines, reminding and guiding me to reframe my negative thoughts.


I have the word “YET…” painted in big letters on my classroom door. My students and I use it to reframe our thinking when we need a little support.  We use it as part of our verbal call and response when we are not quite there…yet.  We point to it and repeat it when we are so close to a concept, when frustration creeps in, or when we have been working really hard and need a little encouragement. It is a prompt, a touchstone to all who walk through my classroom door; student, parent, teacher, administrator, custodial staff, guests, etc…, we do not have it all learned...yet, but we are working hard to get there and then once we are there… it is time to follow to where the next yet will lead us.


Where will your yet take you, next?