Today is my 41st birthday.

It’s been filled with love, (free, delicious) food and drink, and with people I love.

I actually super love spending my birthday responding to the messages, texts and tweets that come my way.  Some might say that I should be out there living my best life, but actually, I’m really good with being in here, living my best life.

That’s it.  Nothing super profound today, except for the gratitude I feel to be living this life, with this community, family and the opportunities to contribute that come alongside it.

Also grateful to take this weekend off. I know there’s a lot of things to do in the coming week, but I’m going to get to what I can get to, and that will be what I can get to.

Today, I’m getting to community and family, enjoying the best of food and drink, and living my best life.

It feels like the right way to start off 41.

A Quick Reflection

This weekend was hard.

It was the first weekend in a long time that I had a lot of work that needed to get done.  It was work that was displaced from Friday when I was home with my “sick” daughter who had the lungs of someone with walking pneumonia, but had the energy of someone who is completely healthy, and used her lungs as if they were completely healthy too.

I was reminded that I am not a good person when I am stressed. I am not the person I want to be, for my family, for myself, in my life.

A big chunk of the work got done but there is much more to do still and the sense of overwhelm hasn’t left me.

This was my constant state in years past.  Now, I am reminded why I am fighting so hard to get away from that hamster wheel, why I am trying so hard to reclaim my time and my sense of self.

It is a journey.

Sometimes the journey is hard.

But, I am grateful that even when I feel most angry at the journey, at the world, at myself, I am not alone.

I am grateful for the prayers and encouragement of my pastor.

I am grateful for the enduring love of my family.

I am grateful for the indomitable spirit of my little one.

I am grateful for the strength to try again tomorrow.

It is a journey.

This weekend was hard.

It is time to rest.

Moving Away from the Hamster Wheel

My life, for almost as long as I can remember it, has been a constant run on a metaphorical hamster wheel.

When I was a child, I spent a lot of time bored. I would fill that time with reading or writing or schoolwork or watching television, but I was very lonely a lot of the time.  I had friends, but I didn’t really spend time with them on the weekends and couldn’t call them on the phone. It was often just my mom and me at home, from the time I was 7 until I was 16 and she died.  My mom was wonderful but she was often tired after long days of work. I hated feeling alone more than anything in the world.  I often felt invisible or as if my attempts at being visible just meant that I was being bothersome.

After my mom died, I had a strange newfound freedom (since she had only let me participate in a few things that she thought were the best uses of my time), but I hadn’t practiced making wise choices with my time or setting boundaries for myself.  I was lost, but I was busy, and busy felt right. It felt productive and good and valuable.  It let me hide a lot of the pain from losing my mom.  It made others admire me.  It opened new worlds from me, led me away from my hometown, and to leadership and success.  I didn’t have time to think because I became so busy doing, mostly for others, and working to please them.

I did that for almost 25 years, to a greater or lesser degree.  In my worst years, I ended up very ill, my body forcing me to get the rest my mind would not allow.  I lost relationships with people I loved dearly and sacrificed time with others with whom I wish I had more moments.  I kept moving forward, but it never felt like enough.

At the heart of it all, I was running away from the profound loneliness I felt inside.  I was addicted to the doing, the constant movement that allowed me to ignore the present moment.  I wanted to feel like I was accomplishing something and that someone saw me.

In this last year, and particularly in this last few weeks and months, I’ve been working to step away from the hamster wheel.

It is so hard.

I live in a society and work in a profession that calls me to run faster on the wheel, to take on more, in which there are always demands.

It is up to me to stop running.  To stand still. To get off the wheel. To breathe. To write.

It is frightening because it is unfamiliar.

But, each time that I move away from the wheel, I am reminded of who I am.  And, although it is hard, I am learning to remember that my worth is in more than what I do, but also in who I am.

This weekend, I read The Giver by Lois Lowry (because I’m reading the books my son has been assigned for school alongside him this year so we can talk about them in our own family book club).  In reading it, I was reminded that it is only through knowing pain that we can see the color, the beauty, the other feelings, in life.  We must remember the pain; we must go through it, if we are to get elsewhere.

So this post is a moment when I have stepped off the wheel, when I have reclaimed some time.  Watching a television show with my son, reading with my daughter before bed, spending time with friends, breathing. I am taking steps away from the wheel, and walking down a path of greater intentionality.

It is hard, but I am learning what it feels like to be present.  And that is a big thing.


Today was a breakthrough day, in what has been a breakthrough school year.  I have committed to learning Mandarin (my heritage language), reclaiming my time, and making healthier choices in my life.  These things are remarkably uncomfortable.  They force me to move from my comfortable, but futile, state of perpetual busyness to be present to new challenges that push me towards growth.  This is not easy. Some days all I feel are growing pains.  But other days, I can hear, see, and even smell the growth I am engaging in. And I am recording this here to remind myself and to share with those who might read this blog.  Growth is possible, but it isn’t easy.

A slide from a meeting at my son’s Chinese school today

This morning, after a somewhat frantic morning dog walk to our local bakery which almost made us late to my son’s second day of Chinese school, he and I arrived on campus.  He went to class and I went to a meeting (that I had just remembered was happening a few hours before) about AP Chinese & the SAT-II Chinese test.  As those of you who have followed my Mandarin journey know that I dread any meeting at my son’s Chinese school.  Two weeks ago, in his first week of class parent meeting, I understood about 50% and walked away proud.  Today, dear reader, between Google Translate, my background knowledge of the SAT-II and AP Language/Culture tests and the new vocabulary I’ve learned this semester (which happens to be about tests, school & levels), I understood almost 85% of what was going on.  There were a few words that I didn’t get, but I really, really comprehended what was going on, in Mandarin.  It was amazing. It is the first time in my adult life this has ever happened in a real world setting.

Weekend reading for #Ghostsintheschoolyard chat this week

After the meeting, I went to the grocery store and had some extra time before I needed to pick up my son (but not enough time to make the round trip home) so I began reading Eve L. Ewing’s Ghosts in the Schoolyard for a Twitter chat that I’m excited to participate in next week.  This is the second weekend in a row that I’ve read something of my choosing, not directly for my work (although I’m an educator, and teacher educator, so almost everything can relate to my work).  I actually love to read but have relegated myself to reading academic articles and whatever crosses my social media feeds, so reading books is actually pretty extraordinary for me, and I’m remembering my love for reading.

Chicken roasting in Instant Pot for dinner, to be accompanied by sweet potato fries & salad

This afternoon, I did get a few things done for tomorrow (for work), but then spent an hour playing with my daughter and started roasting a chicken in my instant pot.  Cooking and making food that I’m proud to eat and that can last for a few meals during the semester is a pretty big breakthrough too.

I guess all of this to say that change and growth are possible, even after 40 years of seeking endless external validation through production.

Or perhaps, I’m saying, “Winner, winner, chicken dinner” 🙂