Lipstick Stains on Your Shirt

Our daughter had a remarkable therapy session this past weekend. Like a soft melody, I could feel her confidence shine through her this past week. Perseverance and pride marched through each day as she worked through her exposure therapy challenges. She rocked it! Not only did she use strategies to overcome anxiety, she showed anxiety who was boss! She used her detective thinking skills combined with positive self talk as she persevered through daily challenges.

I knew she could do it. I tell her every single day. As a mom, stepping back and watching her go through challenges on her own has not been easy. We process the challenges each day, reflect on how she feels, rate her levels of anxiety, and we end by sharing how proud we are every single step of the way.

I could not wait to share our daughters successful challenges with the therapist this week. I was so excited, I kind of took up over half of her session time bragging about how awesome she is. Whoops! Now don’t get me wrong, it was messy this week. Working through exposure therapy is not perfect. We had ups and downs on the daily. However, how we act and react in those moments have changed drastically. And it’s making all the difference!

As I’m talking to the therapist, I can see my daughter nervously shuffling through my purse. She managed to find my lipstick, chapstick, and lipgloss… She put it on repeatedly the entire time I talked (and boy do I like to talk…) With a shimmer like no other on her lips, the therapist walked over to her, bent down, and embraced her in an “I am so proud of you hug!” They embraced, laughed, and smiled their hearts content! It was a beautiful scene and I was blessed to be a witness to it!

After my daughter pulled away from the hug, a serious look spread across her face, her eyes darted at me, and her face turned beet red. I looked at my daughter and then my eyes shifted towards the therapists crisp clean white blouse, which was neatly pressed with a bright RED lipstick smile. The stain made me chuckle a little…(mostly because I was nervous.) I gently whispered, “Are you nervous because you accidentally got lipstick on her shirt?” Our daughter nodded and her eyes filled with tears. In that moment the therapist’s reaction was exactly what she needed to hear. “It’s ok honey! I don’t mind at all, in fact I’m going to leave this lipstick stain on my shirt all day. Nobody’s perfect and this is a reminder to me of how proud I am of you. Tell mommy to put away her tide stick!”

Riding the waves of anxiety with our heads held high!

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Hard Work Pays Off

I used to be a fast distance runner. One time, I even took first place in a road race. I was young, in excellent shape, and my life revolved around training. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get back to that point in my life, but I’m ok with it. My priorities have shifted drastically and that is perfectly fine.

Today I ran 4 miles.

It wasn’t the fastest pace, but I’m slowly working my way through marathon training. I’m carefully planning out my weekly runs in the hopes of not getting injured. At the current moment, I also still work out 4 days a week at the gym. It’s hard! My body constantly aches. I’m tired of waking up at 4 am for a workout. I give 100% of my energy to my family. All in all, I’m not giving up. Hard work. Pays off!

My fourth grade students and I set goals on a weekly basis. We talk about challenges and we celebrate growth. I told them my goal was to run a marathon. With a look of wonder on their faces…they curiously asked me why. My response was, “I’ve always wanted to run a marathon and I’ve never done it before. I want to challenge myself and set new goals.”

Share goals with your students. Be open about your feelings, highlights and challenges. Keep it real and authentic with them. They will hold us accountable just as teachers do with them. Our students can also be our biggest cheerleaders. Especially when we need it the most.

Hard work. Pays off!

#journeytofirstmarathon

Surfing the Waves of Anxiety

It can seem invisible to others. I can see it though. There’s a certain twinkle in her eye, almost like a tear drop, followed by an unusual smile. She picks at her skin and turns her foot on its side.

Anxiety.

When she was 3 years old, our daughter was frightened to leave our side. She was extremely empathetic, kind, caring, and loved when everything was “just perfect.” When my husband would leave the house for work each morning, she said the same 3 things every single day, “Stay hot not cold, say hi to your friends for me, drive safe.” We thought it was so sweet! Then I started to notice…she always took 3 squirts of soap to wash her hands, she washed her hair 3 times, she had to give me 3 kisses before she stepped onto the bus…and more.

The more I noticed, the more I realized, everything seemed to come in 3’s. When I asked her why, she said “I just have to.”

Anxiety and OCD.

Date nights became more difficult as our daughter would cry hysterically. We tried having family babysit in order to ease the transition, but she still became upset and asked repeatedly to talk to us as soon as we left. Leaving our daughters side caused her to worry that something would happen to us. Her little body felt heartbroken and panicked inside. As parents…we felt her pain.

Anxiety.

At school, she would give away her supplies to kids who needed them because she felt bad. She was afraid to participate in discussions because she was worried her answers would be wrong. She held in her emotions all day only to let them spill out as soon as she got home. When the teacher left the classroom for a meeting, our daughter panicked at the sight of a substitute teacher. First grade was the first time she started to experience panic attack’s at school. Her amazing teacher called me right away.

Anxiety.

As a parent, teacher and friend, I am aware of students who exhibit and feel signs and symptoms of anxiety. Sometimes we aren’t always in tune to it. Sometimes it comes out in more than one way. Sometimes it builds and builds and builds until we lose control, whether it be internal or external. Sometimes it can be prevented. Sometimes we need to learn strategies. Sometimes we need to know it exists and we can overcome it.

We CAN overcome it. The needs of our children, our families, our friends, our colleagues and most importantly…ourselves are impacted by anxiety. As I watch our 8-year-old daughter surf the waves of anxiety, I learn more about what it’s like to overcome it and how exhausting and challenging it can be for those who are confronted by it every single day.

You can’t always stop the waves from coming, but you CAN learn how to surf them. You can do amazing things!

*Last night my daughter and I sat in the dark journaling. It’s part of her exposure therapy. She’s petrified to sleep at night. I asked her to draw a picture of happiness.

“Happiness is life. It’s like when someone shares a favorite doll with you and you feel good inside.”

A Gift to Yourself

Have you ever walked into a situation knowing that it was going to be uncomfortable? Like the kind of uncomfortable you try your best to avoid on the daily?

Today my daughter and I were blessed to receive one of the best gifts…

Heading into therapy today, our daughter was excited for the new “adventure” she was going to have. I admit… I was nervous. It was our first day of exposure therapy and not knowing how she would handle it scared me.

She packed her sleep mask knowing she was going to have to use it in order to simulate being in the dark. She knew it was going to be uncomfortable and she would need to tackle her anxiety head on. Yet, she sang the entire car ride to therapy. Was she for reals???

When we arrived, the therapist greeted us and explained the session to me. I watched our daughter bounce up and down in her seat. She picked at the already raw skin on the edges of her fingers as she quietly listened, her eyes as round as saucers.

“I am going to put her in an uncomfortable situation. We will tackle the anxiety head on. Don’t worry, we start slow.” My heart might have skipped a few beats in that moment. I took a deep breath and turned toward our daughter, “Ok! Make the best of your adventure honey!”

I had to keep smiling, even though part of me inside cringed with worry.

My thoughts bounced back and forth like a game of ping pong throughout our daughters session…

-what if she has another panic attack

-what if she’s curled up in a ball crying like she does at home

-I bet she’s going to come out with tears in her eyes

-I’m surprised they haven’t come to get me yet

-what is taking them so long

I waited on the edge of my seat as I heard the footsteps of them returning to the waiting area. I felt nervous look up at our daughters face. It’s easy for me to tell how she’s feeling inside just by looking in her eyes. As I looked up, her smile met mine. I sighed a breath of relief. Her eyes sparkled with joy!

She did it! She tackled one of the worries listed on her fear ladder, and she had the biggest smile to prove it! She is brave. She is persistent. She is perseverant.

She is amazing!

She’s not done yet…it’s only day 1. But…she crushed day 1 and I’ll take it!

Today I watched our daughter take her first step towards fighting anxiety. What a gift it was to see. Through this experience, she created gifts for herself. Lifelong gifts…like the gift of confidence, the gift of perseverance, and the gift doing something that made her feel uncomfortable. Three amazing gifts graced upon herself. What a champ!

Some of my students fight the good fight everyday. Adults do too.

-Do what makes you feel uncomfortable. Listen to your music and sing along the way.

-Smile at the person who is there to cheer you on. They are with you for a reason. You are worth it.

-Be persistent. Sometimes the hardest part is showing up. Heck, it’s not easy to give up your time even if it means you show up every.single. Saturday! But it’s necessary. Put in the hard work. Blast your worries and fears. Don’t hold back. You WILL reap the benefits.

I promise to cheer you on…always!

Dream BIG!

Celebrate the Amazing Human You ARE

I am so incredibly proud. Our daughter attempted her first sleepover last night.

The day before, we talked with her about the results from her neuropsychological evaluation. We told her about her diagnosis and about how she has worked incredibly hard with her therapist. We fully support her every step of the way. She’s 8 years old.

As a mom and a teacher, my mind constantly flutters between:

*Is this what the therapist would do?

*Is this what’s best? I don’t have a plan for that.

*How will this affect her in the long run?

*How long will it take her to recover?

*Will this happen in the future?

*What will happen in the future?

*Did I make the right choices?

*And more…

To me, “normal” seems like a myth or even a mirage. I prefer to think of humans as being “unique.” At 7 years old she said, “I just wish I was normal like everyone else.” Heartbreaking….

I pray my daughter can and will celebrate the amazing human she is. It will be my life’s mission.

It’s also my mission to provide her the supports she needs. Yes, therapy is expensive. It adds up. Believe me! We know we are in it for the long haul this year…and maybe longer. I know in my heart it’s going to help her…help us…help others. It already has…

We cannot afford a trip to Disney…yet…(I will not give up trying to save money). Our daughter is learning strategies and skills in her weekly cognitive behavior therapy sessions that will help her navigate the paths she will choose to take in life. My heart aches thinking of how hard she works on a daily basis. She has the biggest heart of any 8 year old I know. She empathizes just listening to us read her stories (The Giving Tree was the first book she cried her eyes out when we read to her at age 3). Her younger sister is learning a great deal from her as well. They adore each other and her sister just seems to know exactly how to help her (and how to push her buttons of course).

When she woke up this morning, my daughter quietly approached me and whispered, “I’m sad. I didn’t sleepover my best friends house last night.” I hugged her tight and said, “I’m so proud of you sweetheart. Keep trying. Each time it will get a little bit easier.”

We got the call around 1am. My husband hurried over to pick her up. Her bestie’s mom said she started panicking around midnight. My guess is that she tried to stay up all night so she didn’t have to fight her fears and worries. Then, panic set in…

I’m proud of her. She will get there. She will learn to challenge and overcome her fears and anxiety. We will support her every step of the way. We know that there are challenges we will face but it’s how we face and respond to those challenges that help us learn and grow. More than we will ever know.

Action Towards Achievement

It takes me a hot second to put my thoughts together, and even when I think I have them put together they never really seem the way I had intended. Yes, my brain is scattered. Kind of like my attention span. I get really excited about little things and somehow my brain makes them into bigger and bigger things. My thoughts rapidly change which makes it hard for me to focus on just one thing.

I was challenged by an amazing trainer at my gym, he inspired me to set a workout goal for 2019 and pushed me close to the edge by suggesting I run my first marathon. I’ve taken time off from running competitively, but I do absolutely love running. There’s nothing better than setting a goal and training (which also includes a variety of mini goals) to ultimately run a race. Here are a few reasons why I just might run my first marathon in 2019…

1. I’m going to be 40 this year. Life goes on no matter what age you are so why not start now?

2. I’ve run a half marathon, ultra relay and 10 milers before. I know I CAN do it!

3. My husband won’t complain about my monthly gym membership prices. Well…at least not for a few months…ha!

4. My girls are a little older and more self sufficient so maybe…just maybe…the house won’t get destroyed while my husband is home and I’m out on long runs. I know…this one might be a stretch…

5. Running is a great way to clear my mind and body. Maybe I’ll meet some new friends along the way?

6. I love setting goals and then crushing them!

Now that I’ve clicked submit on this post and you’re actually reading these words…I’m officially sharing it with you! Feel free to hold me accountable and make it a big deal!

Here’s to stepping up and trying something new! I hope to write about my journey and share it with you. So what are you going to set as a goal?

Let’s set some goals and CRUSH them together!

From a Different Lens

Are you smitten with your school community? I am! I literally jump for joy just thinking about our school community!

I had the opportunity to embrace our school community from a different lens today…the lens of an administrator. I have a dream and a passion from within my heart to become an administrative leader. Today, I was blessed with the opportunity to embrace my day as a substitute principal. What a gift!!!

Our principal and assistant principal are so incredibly amazing that they make their job look easy. Believe me…it was not always a brisk walk. At times, I felt like I was climbing a steep flight of stairs which had 5 different paths to choose from, each loaded with obstacles. I tried to encapsulate all the qualities I needed in order to be an effective leader today, but the list became quite long and I’m guessing that my list might need a couple clicks of the refresh button and automatically update from hour to hour.

A principal’s job is hard work! I LOVED the smiles, high fives, and soft squeezy hugs I received from many kids today. Sticking true to my enthusiastic passion for all kids, my morning message included “make today awesome for someone! Share a smile, a wave, or a high-five! Remember, you are amazing…make today as awesome as YOU!”

I could feel the positive energy as I walked through the halls. I saw the smiles on the faces of our students and staff. My heart felt embraced by high-fives and waves. It truly brightened my day!

At times…I wished I could have stayed longer in classrooms, I wish I could stop a teacher mid-lesson and tell them how amazing I think they are, I wish I could have finished reading the entire story to the child in the nurses office as I was paged to another classroom, I wish I could have walked that child to class instead of giving a high-five in passing, I wish I didn’t feel alone at times while walking the halls…oh the list goes on…

A principal’s job is unique. I didn’t think it was possible for my head and my heart to be five different places at once. I hope to be blessed with another opportunity to learn and grow as an administrator. I will continue to keep climbing in pursuit of becoming an administrative leader.

Big or small lens…it doesn’t matter… approach each opportunity with an open heart and an open mind. #ThankAPrincipal

Giving to Others: A lesson from an 8-year-old

One of the greatest gifts our daughter, Isabella, learned in Kindergarten was…how to sew. Everyday she sat with her classmates and practiced sewing. She started by sewing two shapes together, which eventually evolved into beautifully decorated hand-made pillows.

When asked about our daughter, my response is, “she is the most incredibly kind, caring, and generous child.” All beautiful traits, which she’s passing down to her younger sister. Isabella continually thinks of others before herself. She donates money towards church offering, she donates her toys to those in need, she and her sister volunteer at the local food pantry with their grandmother, and she also enjoys spending time making cards and pictures to share with friends and family.

For two years, Isabella has been hand-sewing heart shaped pillows. A process which takes quite some time for a young girl to finish. Isabella has put her heart and soul into it. She has shown me a true example of the meaning behind “made with love.” At age 6, Isabella decided she wanted to make pillows for young children in the hospital. Her heart was supported by hope that her pillows would serve as a way to comfort children in the hospital.

This past week, Isabella and I dropped off a bag filled with heart-shaped pillows and personalized “Feel better soon! You ROCK!” notes. She made a special pillow and note for a young child we know from church who is currently receiving treatments for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. A personal super-hero warrior friend of ours.

My 8-year-old daughter has taught me how to selflessly give to others. Watching her complete this amazing project has also taught me the meaning of patience and perseverance. “Made with love” truly exists. It stands firmly grounded by the hope that it love is selflessly given and received.

Thank you Isabella, for showing me love and hope. Thank you for being YOU!

*Every child is a unique gift in this world filled with love and hope.

It’s ok to cheer for someone you don’t know

Last night my friends, family and I had the pleasure of cheering on the runners at the 10 mile Blessing of the Fleet road race. It’s one of my absolute favorite road races to run of all time! I can tell you exactly where the water stops are, where people cheer the loudest, where people play music on the front lawn, and were people spray you with their hoses. It was an awesome experience for me to be on the flipside of the event and cheer on the runners and walkers along the path of their 10 mile race with my daughters.

We saw lots of smiles, friendly faces, friendly waves, and heard some occasional thank you’s. My younger daughters and I watch the faces of grit, determination, perseverance, and pride as the stream of runners and walkers filtered by us one by one. We were located at mile nine, so I understood deeply how each and every single one of them might have been feeling. Almost to the finish!!! Some people wore shirts that represented their gyms or shirts in honor of loved ones. You better believe we acknowledged those runners and what was written on their shirt! For some, it might have been there “why.”

Towards the end of the race, the cleanup crew started to come out and clean the streets littered with plastic cups, paper cups, shot cups, and occasional beer cans. The crowds died down and you could hear a soft hum from the finish line in the distance. Many of the spectators had started cleaning up the beach chairs scattered on their front lawns and trickled back into their homes. It was getting dark but we still waited… I waited as runners and walkers slowly trekked by on their journey to finish the race. My daughters and I waited in the dark until the last runners came by. We shouted just as loud as we did at the beginning a race, than we did at the end of the race. We stuck out our arms a little further to give high-fives of encouragement and strength. The smiles spread across their faces behind the tears of pain and determination were what made our evening the best night ever! Last night was about connecting with perfect strangers and cheering them on for the hard working individuals they were, and not places they were in…which was pretty darn awesome in our eyes!

*Its ok to cheer for someone you don’t know. Maybe someday they will return the favor when it’s needed most.

The girls cheering on the runners.

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