Every Woman Needs A Team of Friends

When I was hired as a first year teacher in 1995, I was the youngest teacher in the school.  The average age of the teachers in the school was 40.  These women took me under their wing and it was very hard to do that.  I had a lot of energy and passion. I once rode the overhead cart down the hall like a skateboard and almost hit one of the more experienced teachers with it.  She was smashed up against the wall, eyes as big as saucers, and when I expected a dirty look and reprimand, she began to laugh.  I wanted to be like these women.

Twenty three years have passed since then, but I learned so much from those ladies and so many women that were older and wiser.  I learned about teaching, life, and friendship.  I remember thinking, “I want to be like them when I grow up!” and I know that I have.  Strong women and men have made an impact on my life.  I celebrate my friendships with all kinds of people, but the common thread that always stands out is that these people are always strong.  Strong can come in all kinds of ways, but dedication, grace, redemption, and courage always shine through our experiences and interactions.

I do not look at my friends as a tribe, but as a team. Sometimes, my friends are guys.  Yes, I have always had a supportive “guy” group throughout my life.  Guys can see things differently than women.    We have a goal to not just survive life, but thrive throughout it no matter what situation we are in at the time.  My teammates have different strengths, values, and play different roles, but we are all focused on the same thing…growing to be the best we can be.

Older women mentor younger women…naturally.  Women need women of all ages in their lives to support them, encourage them, laugh with them, and grow them.  I have been blessed with women that have gone before me to guide me.  Recently, I have remembered one teacher in particular in that first school.  Her husband had cancer and she was his caretaker.  She had to walk through my room to get to her room, and every morning, she smiled, joked, laughed, and pushed through the realities of life. She would wear bright red Reeboks on Friday and she enjoyed the life she had been given by not majoring in the minors.  I have drawn on her strength and example from 20 years ago these past months.  I think of her often and I am blessed to have witnessed that strength and dignity. She had an impact.

Friendships with people of the same age are indispensable!!!!  We are in the trenches together.  Whether it is diapers, toddlerhood, adolescence, or rookie drivers….we need a strong support group that can laugh and mourn these moments with you.  I am selective about these people because time is not something I have to spare, so these friendships must be authentic and fierce.  When I think of this group of friends I have in my life, I do not just smile…I laugh out loud.  Our conversations are brutal, honest, sarcastic, and blunt.  We do not apologize for who we are and we do not hide behind any masks.  They are truth tellers.  Sometimes their honesty might surprise you, but when you walk away from them, you feel better than when you came.  They make an impact.

I also love having friends younger than me.  They keep me young.  I see myself in them.  I am glad I am not in my twenties or thirties anymore.  I look at their lives and the brightness that their futures hold.  I laugh with them.  Sometimes, I lecture them.  I like to listen to them!   I celebrate where they are right now and give them a blessing of where they will be one day.  I want them to enjoy the process, but they can not see that yet, just like I couldn’t.  I love celebrating the chapters they are starting and I encourage them through the chapters they are closing.  These friendships are important to me and I value these amazing young women that have so much in front of them.  Their youth and energy leave an impact.

These friends do their thing and do not compete with one another.  They are amazingly interesting and genuine.  Their “thing” is what they are passionate about and as a team, we celebrate it!  One friend is a bodybuilder.  I have NO idea how she can do that, but she is determined and dedicated.  I respect that.  One friend picked up a mountain bike and can not be stopped.  I would have to be shot if I was on a bike longer than a mile, but I celebrate her “thing”!  She was willing to be a beginner and her passion has grown her in so many ways!  I have other friends that scrapbook, cook, run marathons, play tennis, dance, knit….you name it, they do it!  Our differences do not divide us, but draw us close, celebrating the accomplishments of one another.

I model these kind of friendships for my daughters.  They see their importance.  They are working on choosing their friends wisely.  So much is caught than taught.

I would not have survived the last 2 years without my friendships.  My friends have held me up more than they realize.  Their prayers, time, hilarious texts, support, and acceptance saved me in so many ways.  And just like the best teammates, when I was stranded on third base, someone would step up to the plate and knock one out of the park sending me home with a smile on my face. Every woman needs a team of friends to play this game we call “life”, skilled in grace, courage, perseverance, and humor.  And every true friend becomes an “impact” player no matter what the timing or how they enter your life.

 

 

 

National Make Your Daughter Cry Day

Warning:  This blog is totally sarcastic.

When the girls were little, I could tell what was wrong by their cry.  If they were hungry, they had a whiny sound and they would move their heads back and forth.  When they were tired, they would arch their back and turn.  When they were down right mad they would just wail.

You get a break from the crying around the age of 3 until about…puberty.  Out of nowhere, it happens…the tears start and you do not know why.  You have to learn a complete crying language all over again.  And this time it is much MUCH more complicated.

There are many times that Caroline lives on Caroline Street, Grace lives on Grace Street, and John lives on Johnny Street.  I drive along their streets just dropping everybody off at their destination and picking them up as needed.  Since John can drive, he just shows up when he is not working.  Soooooo, when the street goes to two ways, it can get a little complicated.  When adolescent girls are reminded that the world DOES not revolve around them, it can be an eye opening experience!!!!  Guess what happens?  Tears= National Make Your Daughter Cry Day.

Then, I am the bubble popper.  You have to pop the bubble that they float around in thinking about themselves.  Ummmm, excuse me, but let me set you straight.  One, until you pay the bills, your phone is mine.  Two, I am not your uber driver because you do not pay me any money to drive you.  Do not assume I can take you anywhere anytime.  It does not work that way.  Three, we have four schedules in our house and you are responsible for yours and the work that it takes to prepare for your day.  I will pick you up, Dad will pick you up, someone will pick you up….sometime.  Be patient.  We may be late because we have lives, jobs, and commitments. The realization on a daily basis that the world does not revolve around you= National Make Your Daughter Cry Day.

Finally, the “Do Hard Things” speech can be delivered in a variety of ways.  It can be delivered gently at the end of the day when nobody has cried and mom is calm and has not been sucked dry by all of the people in the world.  The speech can be delivered in a “you can do it” cheerleader attitude with a glass of wine in hand making dinner or probably just ordering pizza.  Another method could be before coffee in the morning, when you are standing in front of me crying because you forgot a project that is due today and didn’t do your job….that speech will result in yelling, crying, and gnashing of teeth…mine and yours.  “Do Hard Things” Speech +Timing=National Make Your Daughter Cry Day.

As I sit here tonight, glass of wine in hand, interpreting the language of adolescent tears…I declare every day National Make Your Daughter Cry Day.  I do not think we have had a day this summer that tears have not been shed.  I am making it a national freaking holiday.  And if you have an adolescent girl, you are welcome to join in the festivities.  Tears….I mean CHEERS!!!

 

 

7 Things I Learned As A Christian School Principal

1. Everyone does not sit around and sing “Amazing Grace”.

I thought it would be different working in a Christian school.  I thought there would be less problems.  But, like my then 12 year old told me, “If we really believe what we say we believe, that everyone has a sin nature, why do you expect there NOT to be problems?”  The amazing part about being in a Christian school was that we could deal with it differently.  We sought to be a vessel to grow kids’ hearts and when kids’ hearts and character are growing, they grow in every area of their life.

2. Pride is the basis for many decisions gone wrong.

I have personally found that where there is conflict, there is pride.  Too much pride or too little pride tends to make decisions based on the wrong thing.  I have made knee jerk decisions that were wrong and based on pride. I am aware of this and continue to seek to grow in this area.   As I grow wiser and seek to understand people, I see that pride plays a major role in most conflicts.  People that come to me and ask advice, I usually check where their pride and motives are at the time. When I mess up, it is usually because my pride is not in check.

3. There are 5 sides to every story and somewhere in the middle is what happened.

Everyone wants to know what happens behind closed doors.  Most times, principals are acting like Judge Judy.  Everyone has a different interpretation to what happens, teachers, students, and parents.  The goal is to get to the heart of the matter and grow people.  No matter what decision you make, people will not agree and continue to tell you that you are wrong.  As a school leader, you have to be prudent and objective.   I tried to operate on two premises: Is it best for kids?  Does it honor God?

4. You will never be “Christian Enough” for anyone… but, God will still use you.

The names I have been called behind closed doors and in public have been eye opening.  I have been cursed out by people, called “Satan’s Minion” and the “Devil’s Spawn”.  My morals and values have been questioned.  I have learned to “rise above the good opinions of others”…a saying my mentor says to me regularly.  Everyone is human.  In this day and age that everyone has a venue to gossip on social media, hide behind their computers, and tend to be “couch quarterbacks” and give advice on areas that they know nothing about…it is really fun to be a leader, let alone a Christian leader.(insert SARCASM)  Nobody can make mistakes.  We have forgotten what grace feels like.  When we remember what it feels like, we have a tendency to give it more.  Have you ever deserved a punishment so severe and somebody looked at you and said, “Don’t worry. Your debt has been paid.”  I have had that happen to me several times and that is grace.  We need to give more grace.  I need to give more grace.

5. Politics Are Everywhere

Everyone has an angenda (which usually goes back to pride).  It happens in the Christian world and secular world.  I am not a great player at this because I have a tendency to speak my mind and my passion for kids gets the best of me.  I struggle with people that have not been in the classroom trying to tell an educator how it should be done.  I have tried to be a spectator of this kind of thing.  But, it does exist…everywhere.  Be aware.

6. Is your child learning?

Not, is your child getting straight A’s.  Not, is your child passing standardized tests?  Is your child learning to be a good reader, a good writer, a good mathematician, a good thinker, and a good problem solver?  Do they enjoy learning?  Are their teachers learning and excited about teaching?  Are they given time to think, explore, wonder, and solve problems?  If not, demand it.  The one thing that we were able to do in private school was use what we knew worked, try new things, and we did not have to be a slave to data.  We found that when we concentrated on the above skills, they did well naturally on the standardized tests that we gave once a year.  And we also realized that the score was only part of a child.  Growing children takes time.  Our goal was always to show one year of growth.  That is hard to measure in data when you are also growing more skills that can be measured on a test.  We will never sit under the trees that we plant.

7. Relationship trumps everything.

The teacher/student relationship is at the heart of education.  Relationships take time to build.  Relationships build trust and respect.  Our kids need mentors that care and listen.  Our students need mentors that celebrate growth and guide them in pivotal developmental stages.  Relationships are the springboard for everything we do in education.  Relationships are not perfect, but with grace and humility can grow to be a life changing for the teacher and student.

Being a Christian school principal was the hardest job I ever had besides being a mom.  We had over 80+ denominations represented in our school. Because it is a Christian school, people expect perfection.  We did not have a huge budget.  We DID have AMAZING teachers and a community that grew students.  I was blessed to work with students from the age of 3 that sometimes would take naps in my office, to having young middle school girls in my office learning to “problem solve” their girl issues, to seeing students walk across the stage at graduation.   I was honored to have held that life changing position.  Although I may have not been “Christian Enough”, God has a way of growing you at the right time for the right things.  The lessons I learned grew me into a better person mentally, spiritually, and professionally.  I see the world differently and do things differently now, and that is a good thing.

It Is Okay To Not Be Okay

“This is my life.” I have said this to myself too many times than I can count.  Most of the time, it is in the morning, as I wake up and clear the cobwebs.  “This is my life.”  My  mind races with all the things that must get done to keep a family going.  Husband, kids, dogs, laundry, breakfast, coffee (can’t forget coffee), meetings, work, appointments, etc. all come rushing in my thoughts.  But first, coffee…

I am not sure when it all hit me.  I am not sure how it happened.  I know when we sat in the doctor’s office last August hoping to hear good news and he looked at us and said, “We do not know how to attack this, so we will stay on this medicine.”  My reply was grounded in the fact that things can always be fixed.  “No, I do not accept this.  I want my husband back.  My husband before this happened.”  And the doctor said, “We do not know what the damage may be.  It could be permanent.”  This meant that what was before is not now and my hope that it would return to normal was fading.

To be brutally honest, I began to unravel.  I had told everyone that I was okay.  I was okay.  I was okay.  And suddenly, I was not.  I had stood here before, but not with my best friend being sick and me not being able to control anything.  All of the feelings came at once.  All the thoughts that were pushed away came in like a wave and I felt myself drowning in uncontrollable emotions.  I always kept it together, but that last blow felt really final.

I was not okay. I was really, really mad.  At God?  No.  At my husband?  No.  At my situation? No.  I was just mad and I couldn’t explain it and I felt like I shouldn’t be.

I reached out.  (I do not reach out well.)  I didn’t have time to feel like this, but I also didn’t have time to deny how I felt anymore.  I had never been in counseling since my eating disorder.  In the hospital, I may have been a little traumatized by the Freudian kind of therapy that I received.  I didn’t think it could help.  But, I needed to process so many things.

A close trusted friend confided in me, “I am in counseling.”

“You are?” I asked.  Knowing that is what I needed.  I paced for two hours in the kitchen and with sweaty hands called.  I was not okay. I needed to process all the things.  I write this because many women feel this way.  I chose counseling, maybe you need something else.  However, I know that it is okay to not be okay. 

Here is what I learned:

Angry is sad’s bodyguard.  Anger gives us energy and sadness drains us.  The anger was a natural response to protect myself.  Anger helped me deal with the everyday challenges of a life in chaos.  Anger is natural, hurting others out of that anger is not necessary.  I have experienced extreme peace after feeling extreme anger.  Like a flower growing through concrete.

Time is valuable.  I do not need to give my time to everyone (pleasing everyone).  I am selective and choose to discern.  I also do not need to save everyone.  I needed to be there for my husband and girls.  I need to maintain close friendships with trusted people, but toxic people, superficial people, and insincere people are not needed in my life.  I can pray for them, but I do not need to save them.  God does that.

I had to let go of the past. This is not an easy task because the past is what has shaped me.  Letting go is never easy.  I had to commit to my future to heal from my past.  It was not easy and it hurt to feel the emotions that I never allowed myself to feel, but it is worth it.  I feel freedom and I have not felt that in forty four years.

I am never alone.  My dad and John were always my safe place.  That was removed with the death of my father during John’s illness and John concentrating on just getting through the day.  There wasn’t a desperate loneliness because I had learned before in many valleys that God holds us.  God has always held me.  He givs me strength when I was weak.  He gives me hope when I am hopeless.  He gives me peace when I am unwound.  This does not come easily for me, this has been a process of a 26 year relationship with God.

I do not need permission from others to live my life.  Since I lived to please, I always needed permission and approval.  I do not need that anymore.  I give myself permission to not be okay.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” Proverbs 31:25  This does not happen by not having struggle.  Strength comes through endurance of doing all the hard things that are asked of us.  Dignity often comes from surviving the storm.  It is okay to not be okay, but, you must grow through it.

“This is my life.”  It is not in terms of good or bad, but messy and real.  There is hurt and heart ache along with laughter and contentment.  I have people that love me and people that hate me from the depths of their toes.  I have amazing friends that have turned into family and stood by me through every high and low.  I love these people due to their realness and compassion.  They see through the scars, the hurt, the smile, and the distance.  I am excited about this life, not because of anything special, but it is mine. God has a way of making good out of the bad, painting beauty with ashes. I see that although my control is minimal, my love is big, my response is real, and the moments are fleeting.  It is not perfect, it is very stormy.  I am blessed to say, “This is my life.” I am going to try to love every imperfect moment.  And if I am not okay today, I will be okay later.

A Letter To New Moms

Dear Young Momma Bears,

Nobody can prepare you mentally, emotionally, or physically for the journey you are beginning.  It is the most amazing job that you will ever have and the hardest job you will ever have.  I am enjoying watching your babies grow in my news feed.  I enjoy that you get to share their firsts with me on Facebook.  The smiles, giggles, cooing, and raspberries melt my heart.  As an older mom and teacher, there are a couple things I want you to remember.

1. You will feel every emotion 100 times more. Embrace it.

Joy, love, fear, etc. will occur within the first hour you are awake every morning.  Your heart is now walking around in this world.  This feeling is exciting and scary all at the same time.  Relax.  The days are long, but the years are short.  Turn off the news and cuddle your babies.  You do not have to put them out in the world today.  Today, you can protect them and love them in the biggest ways.  Do that.  The rest can wait.

2. More is caught than taught.

Be the example always.  The “do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work.  As a teacher, when we meet parents, we understand where the child is coming from because the child will act JUST like their parents.  This can be a good thing or a bad thing.   Think about how you want your child to turn out as a person and be that person.  Kindness, love, respect, and work ethic are modeled by parents.  Children see and understand more than we think.  Be wise in this endeavor.  This does not mean you have to be perfect.  Actually, when you mess up, admit it and ask for forgiveness.  This models more to your kids than you can possibly imagine.

3. Read, read, read to your child.

Readers are made on the laps of their parents.  It is never too early and never too late.  I read to my children as soon as they were born and found that they fell in love with books. When they were crying, I could get them to calm down by reading books.  That is a win.

4. Child development is not a race.

At graduation, you can never tell which kids walked first, talked first, read first, or peed on the potty first.  It doesn’t matter.  Let them develop at their own pace.  Celebrate growth and maturity always.

5.Turn off the screen.

A child is not smart if they know how to download an app.  I hear parents tell me this all of the time.  Your child’s brain will be in much better shape if they are not given a cell phone or ipad.  Trust me on this.  Limit screen time.   Their brains are very fragile and growing much.  They need development of large motor skills and fine motor skills to develop their brains.  Attention spans are trained by screens, too.  Let them dig in dirt, play outside, and create things with their little hands.

6. Pray for your child.

Pray for your children.  I pray for my children every day.  I pray for their safety, their growth, and their futures.  I pray for their friends, their teachers, and their coaches.

The firsts in your child’s life will come and go.  The lasts will come and go, too.  The last day of kindergarten, the last time you can carry them on your hip, the last time they call you “mommy” and shorten it to “mom”.  Enjoy the little things as much as the big things.  The little things are what build a life.  Congratulations.  I will love watching you grow as a mom, too.  It is going to be a great adventure!!

Love,

Nik