Just Keep Showing Up

Just Keep Showing Up

Time for a Franklin Friday!

I’ve never had a puppy quite like Franklin. For his first four months as a part of my family, he wasn’t a particularly happy baby. A strong wind, an errant sound he’d not heard before, or the slightest change in his routine brought out his worst. He was fearful, always on alert, and reluctant to play. Other than the occasional interest in food or a treat, he was motivated by something known only to him. 

In other words, I had no idea what was going on in his head.

His one form of consistent communication was biting. Hard. Being hungry, needing to go outside, even feeling sleepy and wanting to be put into his crate would all rate a blood-drawing chomp. Despite more training techniques and recommendations than I can count – day after day of life as a dog chew left me feeling rather hopeless.  

Not only did I feel like a failure, but I was struggling with not liking him very much which is really hard to admit. Who can’t love a cute little puppy? It’s easier said than done when you’re in a constant battle with no common language or avenues through which to understand one another.  Every night, I’d take an accounting of my wounds and go to bed angry.

Ever feel like that with a student? Over the years I can recall a few who were their own version of Franklin; scared, frustrated and desperate to be heard. These are the students you don’t forget – the “emotional biters” who lashed out in an effort to tell you what they needed , which was often a complete mystery. If you’re big enough to acknowledge it – these are the students who were really hard to like. 

I saw one of those students from my past recently and am thrilled to say that he’s doing well; a full educated, starting a family, and happy where he is.  As we caught up and shared our lives since the days when we were regularly locking horns, we had a frank conversation about the mutual frustrations we shared back then, complete with a truly beautiful moment of honesty in which he shared that despite the fact he hated me most days, that I helped him be better.  He made me feel exactly the same way. 

I asked him what got him through the anger and the deep doubts of his own self worth that he carried with him back then and he replied, “the ones who kept showing up for me.” 

We spend a lot of time as educators and leaders scanning the latest research for new approaches and honing our craft. But what was the most important thing to this young man was not breakthrough research or a shiny new technique. It was simply not giving up. A lesson I will not soon forget. 

 I shared pictures of Franklin and told “war stories” of our time together so far.  I could tell that it was a bit amusing to hear an authority figure from his past admit total failure, but his only advice was to “not give up on the little guy – he would come around.”    

No $200 an hour dog behaviorist could have given me better advice. Isn’t it a wondrous moment when the student becomes the mentor? 

So Franklin and I are moving forward. My new approach is to start each day with the intent to show up and be present. To keep showing up until we figure this out. And believe change will unfold. 

And now, fly. 

 

Julie

P.S. I’m happy to say that Franklin and I have reached a sort of détente. The cessation of hostilities doesn’t always hold but every now and then we enjoy playing ball and Frisbee, and I recently was treated to a first-ever bite-free cuddle. 

Monday Musings and Some Fast Flight Ideas to Make Your Week

Monday Musings and Some Fast Flight Ideas to Make Your Week

I don’t’ know about you, but I feel like I’m drowning in projects. It is really exciting to be working on new things, but do you ever feel like you’re in total overload? It certainly makes Monday harder to face.

Last night as the last few hours of the weekend ticked away, I could sense the “in over my head” feeling starting to creep up on me. Instead of heading out for ice cream with 1,000 calories worth of toppings, I decided the healthy option would be to pull together all of the material I’d collected for a project that is stepping off and  get the ideas that were running around in my head on to paper. That way, Monday would start off with doing rather than searching, and clear direction that would help me avoid a morning of fighting procrastination.

Mondays are still a drag but some advance organizing with two amazing tools I just started using have made a world of difference.

The first is Pocket, which is an organizing app that lets you save and organize material from the Internet. With Pocket you can create a permanent, searchable library of websites, articles, even videos without the frustration of a huge list of bookmarks. Why had I never used this before?! Free version will get you started. 

The second sanity-saving tool I am loving these days is SimpleMind which organizes your brainstorming into a Mind Map. It works for almost anything so it is a great tool not only for organizing ideas but it works well for creating visual study guides, to do lists, organizational charts and project timelines. You can add links, images, notes etc right onto your diagram which happily you can start from one of templates offered. Nirvana for visual learners and listmakers.

P.S.  Lest you think I toiled away the weekend working, one of the things I saved to Pocket was a list I stumbled on entitled “50 of the Best Indie Movies Of All Time” where I found a treasure trove of films I remember hearing about but didn’t ever see. Started with #33 The Station Agent. Have you seen it?

When Forward Is Scary

When Forward Is Scary

Time for a Franklin Friday!

I have a colleague and friend who does amazing work with and for young people in rural communities. The structures she’s put into place for youth who have a whole lot stacked against them – especially those who are aging out of the foster system are truly inspiring. And she’s getting great results. 

 You can imagine how pleased I was to be asked to serve again as a mentor for some of her youth over the summer. I’m all in and already thinking about how to level-up my mentor tools and skills because I can’t wait to be  guiding, cheerleading and advising as they take those first steps in finding the best in themselves. That is, until they stop walking. More on that in a minute. 

Shortly after I received my friend’s call, it was time for one of Franklin’s walks. These are not easy affairs because Franklin is easily distracted. Smells, people, cars going by, and especially sounds from unseen sources stop all forward progress. We can be tripping along at a nice pace and suddenly Franklin will lie down. And we wait. For what, I have no idea. When whatever it is that is going on in Franklin’s head is resolved, he stands up and we move forward. But until he removes the invisible barrier he sees, hears or feels, nothing will get him moving. Not praise, not treats and especially not a tug on the leash. Any attempts to start his engine again results in his play dead pose – rolled onto back – four legs up in the air. Some days it can take 45 minutes to walk a 2 block square.

While this is like a live comedy show for my neighbors, it often pushes me to a pretty significant stress point. I’ve put hours and hours into helping my little pup grow up and after five months, I still can’t figure out what exactly makes him tick. When I get the leash ready for a walk he goes bananas with excitement and I make sure he always arrives home safely. So, Why?!  And it’s not like we can have a calm conversation and work out whatever the issue is. As this daily frustration continues to play out, I’ve had to dig deep for understanding and more patience than I’ve ever needed. 

And it got me thinking….

Have you ever worked with a student over a period of time and feel like they’re really leaping towards something wonderful – and then just on the verge of a breakthrough for no reason they stall? I had a mentee last summer who sprinted right up to the first day of college classes and then…panic. No warning and no obvious explanation.  I was devastated and felt like a complete failure. But as I look at it through the Franklin lens, there was an invisible barrier that only she could see. She wasn’t quite ready to move forward.   

I wish I could say I have a brilliant new strategy for dealing with Franklin. I got nothin’. But I do have a new plan for my mentees this summer. We’re still going to head out and hit the path toward whatever future they envision – but I’m going to ask more questions and take more time to openly discuss what they see, hear and feel along the way. Most of all, we’re going to work for a healthy balance of pushing and pulling (as good mentors do) and time-out for confronting the things that make moving forward scary and difficult.

I’ll let you know how all the summer “walks” go. 

 

P.S.  Franklin is my beautiful (and extremely challenging) new golden retriever puppy. Despite our many difficulties, he is forcing me to try new things, be a better problem-solver, and find new reservoirs of patience and flexibility. I’ll be sharing the trials, tribulations and revelations of growing up with Mr. Franklin Roosevelt on Fridays.    

 

Julie

Only Happy News!

Only Happy News!

I don’t know about you, but for me Mondays are definitely a mixed bag. Some weeks I jump right into the flow and knock things out left and right. Other Mondays feel like a long, miserable trudge up a mountain – in a blizzard, wearing sandals. 

Since for many of us, Mondays often focus on what problems need to be solved in the coming week, I wondered,  “what would  Monday look like if all the news I see first thing in the morning news was happy?” So I’m giving it a try.  Here are the places I’m starting my week:

https://www.reddit.com/r/UpliftingNews/

Reddit isn’t really known for being a positive news outlet but this subreddit has a lot of offer. It is crowd-sourced so there is a huge range of material offered. Very easy to do a quick scroll through to find something that grabs your interest. In keeping with Reddit’s structure, the posts do invite discussion. Probably more positive to skip that! 

https://www.optimistdaily.com/

The new-agey language that describes the site and its readers gave me the impression that it might not be for me (they call their readers Emissaries) but it is one of my favorites so far.  Although it is billed as a “good news” outlet, the site is populated with stories about unbelievably creative thinking and how people are developing wonderful ideas to make the world a better place.  

https://thehappynewspaper.com/

This is actually a real newspaper published in Britain 3 times per year by writer/illustrator Emily Coxhead. The paper ships worldwide and reads a bit like a small magazine. Sunshine in your mailbox and a good way to get away from screens for a bit.  If you can’t wait for the post office to deliver your positivity, there is a very colorful (and happy) Instagram you can check out. instagram.com/thehappynewspaper/

What are your favorite places for positivity?

And now, fly

 

Julie

Shorter Lists, More Curiosity

Shorter Lists, More Curiosity

I’m an (almost obsessive) list person. Perhaps you can relate? Do you have crazy long lists of books you want to read, podcasts to catch up on, replays of webinars that you signed up for but got so busy you missed them? Do you also have insanely long lists of tasks to do, projects to move forward, stuff to remember? 

What lists get the majority of your time and attention? 

My “go juice” is learning things, thinking about new ideas (or old ideas in new ways) and connecting to other people who are interested in exploring and learning. Allowing myself the time to indulge in activities that ignite that curiosity spark is where I find a lot of my motivation. So why am I constantly holding an empty cup?

That’s a question I think we’re all still trying to solve, but all of this did get me thinking about the students that I teach and mentor. Have I taught and encouraged them to seek out the moments that spark their curiosity? To refill their cups with “go juice?” 

By nature of my role in their lives, my work with young people includes a lot of lists. Planning for your future isn’t as simple as an entry in the “to-do” column, but it does require a progression of essential steps and tasks and experiences – especially if the plan is to pursue college – which is a pretty grueling list in itself.  

I think we’re really good at telling kids what to do. When they’re little we help them organize their day with consistent meal and bed times and other simple routines. As they grow we create lists of daily things to do and in school we introduce homework notebooks and calendars. We help our teens with more sophisticated organizational and time management skills (well, hopefully we’re doing this – they need it!) and all along the way we praise them for getting things done.

Do we give equal praise when we see our students or children create space for activities that let them think creatively and curiously? Do we model the joy of following an interest into something that is not on a list?

Anxiety, stress-related illnesses and depression are affecting teens at alarmingly high rates. There are of course many factors that contribute to this growing problem but I do wonder if we a small start could be embedding accountability for taking care of ourselves more consistently and starting at an early age; making sure that every day – or most days- have moments, or experiences for the brain and soul to be curious.  

To be a better teacher and mentor I want to explore this more. Of course I should start with giving a little respect to that other set of lists! 

I would love to hear how you are cultivating curiosity and joy in your life – or what moments you create for your children or students to let their imaginations flow.

And now, fly

 

Julie

Fast Flight Friday: April 9, 2021

Fast Flight Friday: April 9, 2021

How was your week? Plans for the weekend?

I have a new puppy so the “fringe time” I used to enjoy, especially early in the morning, has evaporated. Completely love the little guy, but he has turned my days upside down! 

As puppy is working on growing up (with the help of my constant reminders about how to do that) the thing I am missing most is time to read. I can get a few pages in here or there but the days of being able to slip 30 minutes of uninterrupted book time (aka self care) into the day are on hold. 

As I sit here at my computer I can see a stack of brand new books on the corner of my desk. Their brightly colored dust jackets and the promise of what’s inside are making it a little hard to focus. 

I’ll give you a quick tour in case you’re looking forward to a new read, too. 

Come Fly The World. The Jet-Age Story of the Women of Pan Am by Julia Cooke. The inside of the dust jacket says, “Glamour, Danger, Liberation.” I’m in. 

The Nearest Far Away Place by Hayley Long. “A story of grief, hope and brotherhood.” It is set in Wales where my family is from. Note to buy Kleenex before settling in with this one.

The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley.  This one isn’t the type of book I usually pick up but the promise of humor, getting my heart warmed and feeling uplifted through a story about being brave and putting your real self forward seemed like a good read right about now. 

Robert E. Lee and Me: A Southerner’s Reckoning with the Myth of the Lost Cause, by Ty Seidule. This book kept turning up on lists I subscribe to and in groups I belong to. It feels particularly timely to me and I’m looking forward expanding my perspective and understanding.

The Stars and How to See Them, H.A. Rey. This is the newest addition to the stack and it is on the top! H.A. Rey isn’t an astronomer or scientist. He’s the illustrator of the iconic and well-loved Curious George series. Rey was a life-long amateur astronomer and in the 1950s he began experimenting with simplified methods to learn the constellations. He substituted traditional representations of constellations with diagrams he felt more closely depicted their names. The evenings will soon be warmer and I’ll be ready!

I’m off – my little terror angel has awakened from his nap. Have a wonderful weekend.

 

Julie

Fast Flight Friday – April 2, 2021

Fast Flight Friday – April 2, 2021

The first three months of 2021 have just flown by and it is kind of astounding that this is Easter weekend! I adore everything about this spring holiday and have such fond memories of dying eggs, hunting the yard for the jelly-bean filled eggs my Mom had hidden, stuffed bunnies, and chocolate everything.

One thing we didn’t regularly have was Peeps. I don’t know if they weren’t available in the small town I grew up in or if my mom just never got into them. But once I discovered the Peep, it was love. I’m a fan of the Peep-tini, Peep S’mores and putting them on top of cupcakes and desserts.  But the thing I love most are the incredible dioramas and sculptures that people far more creative than I make with them.  Never fails to make me laugh and it’s a highlight of the season.

Happy Easter to you and yours. The links below will lead you to some laughs of your own.

The Official Peeps website featuring this year’s Peepsonality contest. https://www.peepsbrand.com/art-diorama-contests/

Next you’ll find a truly fabulous geeky collection of creations with a science theme – gathered under the hashtag, #peepyourscience. https://www.theopennotebook.com/peeps/

And if you’re inspired, check out this site for Peep-y science experiments. https://www.sciencebuddies.org/blog/science-activities-peeps

 

Julie

Fast Flight Friday: March 26, 2021

Fast Flight Friday: March 26, 2021

It’s been a long time since my adult responsibilities were such that I could run away for Spring Break. But being around students and working with schools keeps me in tune with the rhythm of the school year and I still yearn for the days when a week off was something more than a week filled with things there wasn’t normally time for. 

Maybe next year when we can travel again, I’ll try to reclaim Spring Break, but for now here are a few sites I’m relying on for my mid-semester get away.

Radio Garden is a website (and there is a mobile app) that allows users to tune in to live radio around the world. Spin the 3-D globe, click on a glowing green dot representing a city or town and choose a radio station.  This might be the first time I’ve heard accordion music on the radio and it was actually sort of fun. 

 MapCrunch lets you browse random images of the world via Google Street View. You can generally select a country or the site generates images of the day from a variety of places. I’ve just returned from a 20 minute trip to Ireland and then I hopped over to Iceland for a bit. 

Because I love museums, my break ended with some time at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.  Always something to discover there. 

What I love about sites like these is that they can be cultural/educational or they can just be fun (possibly both) and enjoyed as a quick 20 minute break or with the family or even a friend night on Zoom. 

Happy Travels,

 

Julie

Please, just stop.

Please, just stop.

Well it’s that time of the year again when acceptance letters and financial aid offers have landed and the plans for attending college are now becoming very real. 

I have a love-hate relationship with this moment in the college process. It brings such joy to see a student who has worked hard get the breakthrough they deserved. Watching kids accept and overcome a tough rejection and hold their heads high is pretty joyous too, in its own way.

But somehow before the dollars and cents are sorted out, before the final decision is settled and the deposit is mailed away, THE QUESTION lands: “What are you majoring in?” 

Now before we get going here, know I’m all in when it comes to encouraging students to have a plan (or a couple of plans) and I know that with the horrifyingly exorbitant expense of higher education, no one wants to write that check and send their child off without a clue.   

And yet, I believe right down to my toes that this is the wrong way to show your excitement for a young person who has a whole lot to figure out. It becomes over-the-top wrong when the questioner expresses disappointment when the response isn’t something they perceive to be grand, prestigious or guaranteed to pay really well. 

You know, I’ve never heard anyone ask a high school senior how they plan to use their first year of college to discover the kind of person they want to be, or what their plan is for exploring all of the paths available to them. Those conversations would be fun to listen in on.

College, like every level of education, is more than just advanced instruction in the 3Rs. It’s a complex process of learning and mastering a whole range of new things and connecting it all to where a student has been, is, and where he or she is going.  

It’s okay to have a college major or a career in mind, it’s okay to not have one. Knowing happens at different times for different students.  I knew a 7th grader who told me the first time I met him that he wanted to be a doctor. And he’s a doctor. I’ve also known 12th graders, and college seniors who didn’t know quite yet where they were headed exactly. They figured it out and are living happy, productive career and personal lives. 

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: “but it’s a waste of money!” An investment in learning will forever compound and like its financial counterpart in this analogy, investments mature and grow at different rates – impacted by all sorts of market factors some of which are predictable and some that are not. Ultimately, I believe that the cost of pressuring a young person into claiming a career prize they don’t want to earn poses a much greater risk for a wasted investment.

So, as the young people in our lives approach this momentous crossroads I’d like to propose that we please, just stop with the college major question. Let’s affirm and empower! These are a few of the questions I plan to ask the class of 2021:

  • When do you register for your first ever college classes?
  • What do you love about the school you’ve chosen?
  • (and if the student is still in the throes of deciding) What 3 things are important factors in your choice?
  • What is one goal you have for your first year? 
  • What out-of-class aspects of college life are you looking forward to? 
  • When is your very first day of class? 
  • Who was the first person you told about getting in?
  • How do you feel about your accomplishment? 

And now, fly.

 

Julie

Fast Flight Friday: March 19, 2021

Fast Flight Friday: March 19, 2021

Even with the first signs of spring and the improving outlook now that the COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed I’m still feeling a bit stressed. I think it might be because we still don’t quite know when concerts, brunch dates with friends, or going out to the movies can begin again. Are you still feeling it, too? 

Today I’m sharing a couple of tools that are helping me “over the hump” these days starting with A Soft Murmur https://asoftmurmur.com/ It’s basically a white sound machine that you can customize on the website and, download as an app for both IOS and Android. Five soothing sounds  and you’re back to zen. 

To be honest, I don’t cook often (or all that well) but I haven’t given up yet. Definitely bookmarking https://myfridgefood.com/ in case pizza delivery is ever suspended. Click on all of the ingredients that you have in your fridge and pantry and the site will kick back a group of recipes you are all set to make. Kind of fun even if you don’t plan on preparing anything.

This one is an all-time favorite for stress relief and, for getting things out of my system before they turn into an email. https://screamintothevoid.com/ is simple and brilliant. Just type in whatever is making you want to scream, click on scream and let it go!

Have a great weekend,

 

Julie