Letting My Yes Be Yes…

I have said no three times in the last week.

This is a pretty major accomplishment.

Two of the three times I really wanted to say yes. They were important asks by organizations that I respect and want to serve. The other time, I felt guilty about what I felt like I should do and could do, but just didn’t want to do.

But I said no.

It was the right time to say no to these things.

And in saying no to these things, I am beginning saying yes to myself, and well, reclaiming my time.

Tonight I got asked to consider a service opportunity that I really want to take on. After feeling SUPER burnt out for the last few weeks (and knowing that this next 6 weeks has 2 east coast trips in the works), I actually had forgotten what it felt like to be excited to serve.

But, instead of just saying yes, I asked for “coaching” or a thought partner to help me think about what I could take off my plate to say yes to this thing that I’d really like to do.

This is progress.

I am also learning to delegate in my non-work life.  I am blessed to be surrounded by people who don’t want to see me burn out and who are willing to help, if I can figure out ways for them to support me. So, I have to commit to  finding these ways so that this delegation can happen more naturally for me.

The last few days, I’ve gotten back to the data for a study that is super close to my heart.  I’ve been able to read through final drafts of chapters for a manuscript I’m editing and can see that my feedback is making a difference, and that this work can make an impact for others.  I’ve had energy and conversations with friends that have reminded me of the importance of reclaiming my time, of my value separate from my productivity, and that, if I’m going to be a mouse in a bucket of cream, I’d better keep swimming until I can make it into butter.

I am learning to let go.

I am unlearning the false narrative that my worth is attached to what I do, especially all that I do for others.

I still have a long way to go.  I still have a plate piled too high with all the things.

But I am very slowly learning how to let go of just a few of those things.

I am breathing a little deeper, a little more freely. I am tasting liberation like a snowflake on the tip of my tongue, almost imperceptible, but there nonetheless.

And it’s a lovely thing.


The picture I found waiting for me when I arrived home on Saturday

Life is about ebb and flow.

For me, there is a constant push and pull between exhaustion and exhilaration; sorrow and joy; absence and presence; feeling competent and impostor syndrome.

All of the things.

But, this weekend, there was joy in recovering.

I got some things done this weekend. I often wish I could say that I didn’t work at all over the weekend, but I honestly probably wouldn’t feel good on any weekend where I didn’t work at all. Part of my passion lies in work-related life, educating, responding to students, answering messages from colleagues, preparing for the week ahead so it feels less frantic.

But I also got some other things done. I slept a lot. I spent time with my kids. I went grocery shopping with my husband and daughter. I cooked dinner tonight for the first time in so long (salmon, roasted potatoes and green beans). I watched junk television (I love junk television so much, mostly competitive reality shows like The Voice and Worst Cooks in America). I sang at church then went home to spend more time with my family. I ate well. It was lovely.

It was not a “perfect” weekend.  I am still not 100%. I still could use some rest.

But there were moments of joy in this weekend.  There were moments where I did the best I could and it wasn’t the greatest, but it was what it was, and I was okay with that.

This weekend was progress and growth, it was the flow of the ebb and flow.  It was love and it was joy.  It was moments of simplicity in the complexity of the everyday.

And for that, I am so grateful.

But, PS. If you see me in real life, I could use support in remembering the simple, the present and the joy in the midst of all-too-busy life.  Please and thank you.



I am tired.

Like this owl, sitting up, squinting at you through its sleep, I am tired.

I’ve been at the California Council on Teacher Education Fall Conference since Wednesday. Following my Wednesday morning drive, I had an all-day board meeting, and two full conference days (with me returning to my hotel room at 9 pm both nights) after which I proceeded to respond to student work (so that I might try to minimize work obligations over the weekend). Yesterday afternoon, I literally must have looked worse than that owl pictured above because my dean counseled me to get some rest in the afternoon after a roundtable session with colleagues (but I couldn’t because I was facilitating a Special Interest Group meeting later that afternoon).

In a little over an hour, the power at my hotel will go out for 4-hours.   Probably right around that time, I’ll head out. I would like to go to hear my friend give a keynote talk but I am so tired that I am more likely just to head home.

I miss my family.

I have had many more charming and articulate ideas about my blog this week–writing about my daughter’s love of the book series we’re reading (which is one of the best things of my life), writing about my learning at the conference (which has been important in many ways), writing about taking time for retreat (which I thought I would do, but am not doing), writing about time with cherished friends as renewal (which has been a lovely part of this week, but in the midst of doing far too much).

But, this is about my journey, and honestly, at this moment on my academic journey, I am exhausted. I cannot continue doing all the things, even all the things I love.  I have to rest and recharge.  I have to spend the time with the people in the places that restore me.   I have to make the time to rest.

I know that this is on me. I am intellectually aware that this needs to become my number 1 priority at this moment. But, it is my hardest unlearning.

And I am tired, so, so tired.

Reflections on Today’s Community Circle & Doing My Best

The items at the center of our community circle

I have pretty much been on auto-pilot since Monday.

I have been in periods of survival mode for so long that the last 4 days have somehow seemed relatively normal.  It’s a little harder to remember things. It’s harder to focus.  It’s harder to stay present.  I want to be on social media or watch junk television more. But I’ve been eating and gotten the things done I’ve needed to (even if they weren’t at my best).  I’ve been running and working and studying, even though all the things are taking more effort.

I’ve been doing the best I can.

Today, at the start of class, we took 30 minutes to do a community circle. I had been thinking since Tuesday about how to engage with the lockdown, and last night, had realized that after 6 weeks of explicitly working on trying to build community on a foundation of compassion and mindfulness, that a community circle might be the best way for us to try to give space to something that had broken the safety of our campus community.

We opened the circle with 3 mindful breaths on a 4-4-4 (inhale-hold-exhale) count, then I asked the question, “What makes you feel safe?”

Next, I asked, “What happened and what were you thinking at the time of the incident?”

We continued with, “What have you thought about since?”

Then ended our circle with, “What do you think needs to be done to make things as right as possible? And what is our role as humans and educators?”

It was not a perfect circle (literally, I mean, we just didn’t have the space for a 24-person circle, but also figuratively, in that there are things I likely would have done differently to open the space in different ways to more of the voices in the room), but it was the first time in 4 days that I had taken a mindful breath.  It was the first time in 4 days that I had brought myself to be completely present with people.  It was the first time in 4 days that I could actually feel what I had been holding in my subconscious (even as I wrote about it on Tuesday).

We closed the circle with 3 more mindful breaths.

As we moved the furniture back and transitioned into class, I felt like myself, certainly for the first time since Monday afternoon, but maybe for the first time since long before Monday afternoon.

Sometimes, the academic semester seems like a long exercise in survival, moving from one thing to the next without a moment to stop and be present, and be in community. Monday’s lockdown just heightened that feeling.

But today, I am reminded of the power of community, in the form of imperfectly facilitated community circles, in the form of so much still there, in the form of texts and tweets and hugs.  I am reminded of the power of breath and of our stories, to bring us back to ourselves, to remind us of our lives.

Today, I did my best.

What does it mean to be “okay”?

Yesterday, our campus was on lockdown.

It was not the first time I’ve been on a campus when it was locked down because of the threat of an active shooter.  The last time was before Sandy Hook, when I was still a middle school teacher, and a former student had been seen in the neighborhood with a gun, shutting down both schools on our street.

And then Sandy Hook happened, but before we even knew what had happened, my brother texted me to tell me he was on his way to pick up my nephew, that something had happened at the school, that he’d text me when he got Declan.  And he did text me, because Declan was in 2nd grade, not in 1st grade like my own son Nate, who is only 3 months his junior.

Sandy Hook was nearly 7 years ago.  Our boys are now in 8th & 9th grades.

On lockdown yesterday, I sat quietly scrunched underneath my office desk thinking back to that morning, and thinking about my brother’s community, and thinking about how there’s a hole in the hearts of the families in that community that will be there at every milestone where those children would have been.

I thought about the parents of students on the CSULB campus. My friend, Val, who I run with, texted me right away to see if I was on campus and safe.  She told me her daughter was also on campus.  I have several friends with children who are students on campus and I was much more worried for them than myself.

It is the teacher in me. Even when I am not with students, I am thinking of students and their families.  It is the mother in me, even when they are not my children, my heart is with the parents and children.

I thought about my own children.  I thought about how deeply I loved them.  I thought about how much they still need their mother.

Yesterday, my little girl had asked me, “Mommy, do you sometimes not want to talk about your mommy because it makes you sad that she’s dead?” (Four year olds don’t sugar coat things).

I had responded, “No, Mama, I always want to talk about my mommy, even if it makes me sad because I want you and your brother to know about my mommy, even if she isn’t here with us anymore.”

But what would she remember of me if I hadn’t come home? How could she hold on to me at such a young age?

I posted on Facebook that we were good when we got the all clear, and on Twitter that I was physically safe but emotionally numb. Several people expressed their gladness that I was okay and safe.  When my pastor called to ask how I was doing, I said that I was okay.  I think I may have said that to several people. And, I am okay because what else could I be?

But, what does it mean to be okay?

When my mother died in a car accident, I went back to school the following school day. I was okay.  Of course, I was not okay, but it would take years and many moments for the not okay to surface. At the time, I was okay because I was focused on the goal of getting away from my hometown to college where I thought I might leave the grief behind without ever confronting it.

When my older children were in the midst of serious mental health issues, and as they continue to struggle with health, financial stability, and homelessness now, I was and am okay.  Of course, I am not okay, but I must be okay if I am to support them and the others in my life. So, I focus every day on what has to get done, except for the days when the pain is too much, but most of the time, I’m okay.

When I talk to my students on Thursday about yesterday’s lockdown, I will be okay, because I will focus on being there for them, in the midst of all that is not okay with me. Because, as educators, we are so often called on to be okay in the midst of all that is not okay in the world and my students also need to know what to do when they’re not okay, when it’s not okay, and when they have to be okay for their own students.

So, I am okay.

And I am not okay.

But I will be okay.

And there are moments of okay in the everyday.

It is how I have been surviving for so much of my life.

There is no point to this now rambling blog post except that it makes me think of the oft-quoted (but rarely attributed) quote, “Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”

Be kind today.  And let those you know know how much you love them.