Authenticity

“Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.” 
― 
Albert Einstein

I heard Seth Godin say once that one shouldn’t always strive for authenticity. That sometimes professionalism is more important. That sometimes you may not want to do something — it’s not authentic in that moment — but to not do it would hurt others (or yourself).

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. And I have to agree. While I think some is semantics, the idea that you should be fully “yourself” at all times isn’t appealing to me. I mean, myself isn’t always great. I don’t always have the best intentions. My first thought isn’t always kind. I don’t necessarily make all the best choices — do any of us? So while I want to be “myself” I also always want to self-monitor.

Let me explain. Self-monitoring is just a process of understanding myself. Regulating myself in certain situations. Things we all do. If someone asks me how I feel about something, my first authentic thought might not be helpful, so I monitor myself and share something else for the greater good. To keep a friendship. To not get fired.

So while I am striving for authenticity in my life — I’m not in all situations. I may not always authentically want to wash the dishes, or go to work, or show up to a friends house. But I’ll do it anyway. Because what we want isn’t always what’s best. Being myself isn’t always a good thing.

What do you think? Should you be authentic and risk hurting others? Yourself? Do you practice radical honesty and authenticity, or do you self-monitor?

Begin Again

Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want. No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.”
― Paulo Coelho
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I love blogging. I do. Buuut….. you might have noticed that this blog was last updated almost a year ago. Yikes. Like many blogs I’ve come across, I just let it go. It’s a lot of work. I have to be in “the zone” — or do I?

I don’t think so. Creativity takes work. Blogging takes work. Writing takes work. Inspiration takes work. It’s not just magically there.

So I’m going to work on it. I’m going to blog every day this month. I wrote several sentences and deleted them just now in this space with excuses. If I don’t do it. That I might not make it every day. That things might come up. It might be hard. But nope, not letting myself out that easy. I’m going to blog every day this month.

Even if it’s short. Even if it’s just a photo. I’m committed.

See ya tomorrow.

The Waiting

“Everyone can perform magic, everyone can reach his goals, if
he is able to think, if he is able to wait...” 

― Hermann Hesse

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If you ever went to a church youth group, undoubtedly you’ve heard a lot about “seasons”  in life. Season of waiting, season of singleness, season of scarcity, season of abundance, season of blah blah buzzword blah blah whatever. I've always hated this phrase -- specifically the waiting part. Let me explain. 

A season of waiting implies the world is happening to you. That God, fate, the universe, whatever, controls you in some kind of Westworld VR simulation. And that’s just not true. Obviously. We have free will. We make our own choices. Things may come to us from up above, sure, but we have the power to respond to it. So what are we waiting for?

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When I’m sharing online — a blog post, Facebook share, or an Instagram photo — I always post after the fact — not in the moment. For safety reasons, mindfulness, but mostly just to let it sink in. To react to it fully. To better understand what the experience means to me and why I think it’s worthy of sharing. Like everything in life (online and off), the learning comes later and through the experience. In the in betweens. 

In the waiting. 

Waiting. It’s important. But the big question of life, and something I think about constantly is — when do we stop waiting and start doing?

So like every high schooler who doesn’t know how to begin their essay, let’s start with some definitions. Waiting is defined as “the action of staying where one is or delaying action until a particular time or until something else happens.” 

Uh, no. This is not what I want to be known for. I don't want to stay in the same spot or delay anything. 

Waiting seems to be all passive — but I’m realizing that sometimes not only is it not passive, but it’s necessary. The important part is understanding that I make the choice either way. It's the ACTION of delaying action. Trippy. If I choose to wait, and be still — great. But I know that I made the active choice for a greater purpose. I trusted myself enough.

But what if I’m just scared of the unknown? What if I'm waiting around out of fear? When should I wait? When should I act? And how do I know the difference?

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When to wait

Guess what? Some things DO only happen over time. They can’t be rushed. They take not only time, but great effort, skill, and patience that -- guess what -- can only be accumulated through time. And yeah, this is one of those things that seem really obvious, but I think we need to remind ourselves of it.

I often feel like I’m forcing things. The ol' square peg in a round hole problem. In work, relationships, money — I sometimes try to force things. I’m very controlling. I rush. I want to be active, and doing all of the time. It makes waiting hard. I feel like the things I want are passing me by.

As I'm sure you've noticed (and been annoyed by), I start at least one sentence in all my blog posts with “The older I get,” which sounds kind of (a lot) obnoxious as a 31 year old, but it’s true. I know so much more now than I did 5 years ago. Even one year ago, yesterday, or even this morning. It’s the natural cycle of life. Even when I rush things, I look back over time and learn from that experience. It’s in the waiting that the learning and growing occurs. In the quiet. When I'm not rushing and striving and doing. 

It's the reason you get the best ideas in the shower -- your brain is freed up from it's normal focus. It can free associate and wander through the stillness. And come up with something great. 

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When to act

Your life is NOW — be active. Hustle. Sleep when you're dead.

We’ve all read a version of this on some fitspo instagram girls feed — but it’s not just an empty #motivationalmonday sentiment.

Don’t wait around for some possible future date. It’s not coming. There is never a perfect time for anything (except ordering a pizza — it is always the perfect time).

We miss out on so much by constantly waiting for something more, better, etc. If something isn’t working — you have power. You can change your circumstances. Quit playing the victim. We have agency — and how cool is that? 

A lot of the road trips I go on are last minute. Which prompts a lot of questions. “Why did you go to ______” “You mean you just casually drove ____ hours?” “But why?” etc. To any of these questions, my answer is always the same: I just wanted to go. There’s no perfect time, so that was as good of a time as any. It’s that simple. Really. 

So often we think in terms of, when _____, _____, or _____ happens I will _______. No! You can do it now. And let’s be honest, if you're waiting for x, y, or z to happen, you probably won’t do The Thing when they do anyways. Instead you’ll just come up with another list of if’s and when’s. Shoulda coulda woulda.

“The Thing” — whatever that may be for you in this moment — may not be easy (hey, nothing worth having is), but you can do it. Waiting around begets more waiting around which — lets be honest — leads to inaction.  

If you're making excuses, or putting something off until some future boxes are checked -- you're doing it wrong. Don't wait. 

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How to know the difference

So I've told you to be still and wait. But also to stop waiting around. To realize learning and growth happens in time, but also that there's never a perfect time — yeah I'm confused too. How do I know when to wait and when to act? 

I used to work with a new teacher who was always complaining. Everyone complains sometimes, I know. But this was different (and way more annoying) because it was always about things in her control. At every meeting, when anyone would give her a new suggestion she had “already tried it”, and “it didn’t work” — not realizing that doing things once, especially with 12 year olds, isn’t enough (let's be real, 50 times is not enough but I digress).

Did she do her due diligence? Execute the suggestions correctly? Over time? With buy in? Probably (definitely) not. And not only was she frustrated, but we all were listening to it. 

In this situation, she would have benefited from the waiting. Giving the situation time. Not jumping to conclusions about what works, what doesn’t, or making spurious connections between her abilities as a teacher and the problems in her classroom. Be still. Learn in the in between's. Understand that that's where growth happens. 

So as I constantly tell the kids in my class, “just chill out for a second”. Seriously. Just chill. Then put in your due diligence. But after that, don’t be afraid to stop waiting for change and make it yourself. 

And most importantly: trust yourself and your intuition to know the difference. 

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Fear of making the wrong choice 

If you're constantly afraid of doing the wrong thing, or making the wrong choice then you don't trust yourself. But this isn't something you can just start doing. Again, it's a process that happens, you guessed it -- over time. 

I tell the kids in my class a lot — there are a lot of ways to get to the same answer. It might take longer, slower, more work, or less — but we all get there. So maybe you will make the wrong choice. Maybe you wait for something that's never coming. Maybe you rush into something you shouldn’t. But, ultimately, the awareness of this dichotomy puts you in a better place than most people. 

Self-awareness. Mindfulness. The examined life yada yada whatever you want to call it — just think about what you think about. Think about what you do. Ideally before you do it. Then trust yourself. 

 

Taking a Side

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." -Martin Luther King, Jr.

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If you know me (or read this blog much) you know I’m into motivational quotes. Quotes in general. I know the trope of quote posting Instagram girl, but whatever I don’t care (and could find you a quote to back me up). One of the quotes I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is from Elie Wiesel, when he says that: 

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the center of the universe.”

Could. Not. Agree. More. Taking sides is important. Essential, even. I have had a blog draft titled “Taking Sides” sitting in my queue for probably a year now, but I’ve been hesitant to take a side and finish it. It’s scary. But, I’ve come to realize, it’s scarier not to. I don’t want to be on the side of the oppressor just because, I, like, didn’t have time or whatever. Didn’t want to ruffle feathers. Wanted to be well liked. Friends with everyone. A beige piece of carpet that everyone walks on without another thought. Because that’s really what I was doing. Letting people make assumptions on what I believe — whatever suits their fancy — so that they would still like me/follow me on Instagram/want to hang out with me. 

I write a lot about inclusion — grey areas, how all viewpoints are valid and that two or more things can be true at the same time. But guess what -- you can believe everyone has a right to their own viewpoints while still holding firmly to your own. You can respect someones right to their opinion without agreeing with them or even actually respecting their opinion. It’s okay to not be okay with things. I don’t respect the views (or the person) of anyone with a racist viewpoint, but I respect the fact that in America (and within humanity in general) there are views that exist other than my own. These are two different things. 

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Opinions are like you know whats — and everybody has one. And that’s good right? That’s what makes life interesting. And in many situations you can have a respectful conversation about differences while still remaining respectful of each other. But sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you have to be black and white. You’re with me or you’re against me — and while it’s your right to be against me, it’s my right not to be with you. 

For example: I have alluded to some “batshit insane twilight zone level cray” in my life over the past year. The tl;dr version of it is: this time last year I had a boyfriend here and a best friend across the country — both the longest chosen relationships of my adult life — and this time this year they are engaged to each other. So, as to be expected, since then I have had some problems with trust. But, as crappy as that all was, my real problem is with our mutual friends. Let me explain. 

When this totally unforeseen situation came at me with no warning, my friends immediately gathered around. Agreed with me that this was completely against all girl code/human code and cut ties with the person after they showed their true character and completely ghosted out of my life with no warning. They took a side. Stopped talking to this girl who, despite being a part of my daily life for 8 years, was not a true friend. They unfollowed her on social media. Didn’t text her for her side of the story knowing that she never responded to my attempts to reach out. They took a side. 

And then there were a lot of people who didn’t. For most people it makes sense. They don’t really know the whole story — I get it. But, there are a few people who knew it all. And wouldn’t take a side. They had extremely shallow relationships with this person, and yet they continued the friendship. Told me that she didn’t do anything to them personally. Ummmm.. what? 

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You’ve heard the phrase, “actions speak louder than words”, but what I think about more is how loud inaction speaks. The things that are unsaid. Undone. When someone I believe to be a close friend refuses to take a side in something that, to me, is so obviously wrong, I have a hard time with it. I have a hard time believing that my friendship with that person is based on anything real. If you care about me, how can you care about someone who hurts me with no regard? And why would I want to continue a relationship with someone that is so cavalier with my feelings?

Obviously, in many situations there are two valid sides, but in some -- see above -- there aren’t. One is right. One is wrong. As humans we have the power to make the choice between the two — just like we have the choice to support one or the other. The in between in these cases is just cowardice. 

I’m tired of the wishy washy, lets all get along, play both sides stuff. It’s inauthentic. When I was researching for this post, I found plenty of articles on how to remain neutral, but a sadly small amount on how not to. But that’s what I want! I don’t want to be neutral and I don’t want to surround myself with people who do. 

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I dated a guy through college (oh what a surprise another story that comes back to some random guy yikes) who differed with me politically in some important ways. I remember talking to my mom about it and she told me that I had to “have an open mind” and “not be so black and white”. But, I’m a smart person, very politically informed — especially then in the thick of a political science major — and I wasn’t okay with it. What he believed went against my core values. And not only that, but his inability in my mind to be intelligent enough to understand (and accept) my point of view was a deal breaker. So I broke up with him. And I’m so glad I did. I cannot imagine spending life with someone who I am so diametrically opposed to on anything — even just one thing. If it’s important enough you have to take a side. Stand up for what you know to be true. 

I’m a teacher, so I’m always in a weird power position. Obviously, I can’t take sides on any political or religious front in the classroom. But, in everything else — that’s basically what my job boils down to. I tell kids (I mean, um, model for kids :)) how to be decent humans. It’s literally my job to tell them what is appropriate behavior. What is right. What is wrong. But, again, politically I must remain neutral in the classroom. 

So when another teacher recently posted something online with the preface that “Now that I’m a teacher I don’t want to be too political” I couldn’t help but be disheartened. I mean, I get it. As a new teacher I felt that way too. But what I realize now is that, outside of the classroom, teachers are on the frontlines. We are forming the next generation so God help us I hope we are informed ourselves. I hope we are passionate in our beliefs. I hope we take sides. 

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I’ve always had strong opinions. And I haven’t always had the greatest reactions to them. Despite that, I can easily point to parts of my life when I felt free to express opinions and those when I didn’t. And the correlation between those times of free expression and my happiness are super strong and direct. I feel a constant need to speak out. Constantly. And I — more often than not — repress it to keep up the status quo. 

The sweet girl who teaches math. The pretty girl who likes to hike. The smart girl who reads books. Not the opinionated, liberal, kind of aggressive and happy to debate girl that I am. It’s scary. Taking a side alienates you from, like, an entire side haha. That’s a lot of people. Remaining neutral seems to be a good idea. Smooth things over. Peacemaker. Low maintenance. Easier to get a date. But, in reality, to anyone who is interesting, educated, or matters — neutral people are just boring people. You are the beige carpet. 

I don’t have to get into politics for anyone to see the similarities between what I’m thinking and what is happening in America. In a time where the President of the United States calls white supremacists “very fine people” and black athletes who are exercising their right to peaceful protest “sons of bitches” — it is time to take a side. When that same man insists that “many sides” are to blame for racially motivated violence — it is time to take a side. It is time to take a knee, write a Facebook post, or resist in any way you resonate with. But it is not a time to remain silent. Silence is neutrality and neutrality = complicity. 

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You can’t have it both ways. It’s hypocrisy wrapped in some kind of peacekeeping lie. Brene Brown talks about this in her new book. She says that: 

“Here’s what I believe:

1. If you are offended or hurt when you hear Hillary Clinton or Maxine Waters called bitch, whore, or the c-word, you should be equally offended and hurt when you hear those same words used to describe Ivanka Trump, Kellyanne Conway, or Theresa May.

2. If you felt belittled when Hillary Clinton called Trump supporters “a basket of deplorables” then you should have felt equally concerned when Eric Trump said “Democrats aren’t even human.”

3. When the president of the United States calls women dogs or talks about grabbing pussy, we should get chills down our spine and resistance flowing through our veins. When people call the president of the United States a pig, we should reject that language regardless of our politics and demand discourse that doesn’t make people subhuman.

4. When we hear people referred to as animals or aliens, we should immediately wonder, “Is this an attempt to reduce someone’s humanity so we can get away with hurting them or denying them basic human rights?”

5. If you’re offended by a meme of Trump Photoshopped to look like Hitler, then you shouldn’t have Obama Photoshopped to look like the Joker on your Facebook feed.

There is a line. It’s etched from dignity. And raging, fearful people from the right and left are crossing it at unprecedented rates every single day. We must never tolerate dehumanization—the primary instrument of violence that has been used in every genocide recorded throughout history.” 

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t be upset at one injustice and not another. You can’t take a side on one thing and remain neutral on another. You have to go all in. You have to take a side. That’s how change happens. In politics, and relationships, and in ourselves. 

When we are neutral — even in small things — this is how it reads: “this affects people I care about, but it doesn’t effect me, so I will remain neutral” —> “I only care about me” 

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Neutrality seems like an easy way out. You’re not hurting either side. But you’re actually hurting both — and yourself (your self respect anyways). It’s the bystander effect — people are less likely to offer a victim help when others are present. We feel like there are other people to take up this cause (I mean, your old college roommate posts enough on fb for us all) but that just exacerbates the problem. Everything starts with care. If I cared enough about _______ I would ________. And if you don’t you won’t. It’s that simple. 

Well, I don’t want to be someone who stands on the sidelines. I don’t want to surround myself with sideline people. I don’t want to be so afraid of possible personal consequences that I desert those who are hurting and need people on their side. Injustices continue when good people do nothing. I’m a good person. Who refuses to do nothing. 

I care. And I will take a side. 

My Morning Routine

"Smile in the mirror. Do that every morning and you'll start to see a big difference in your life." Yoko Ono

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It's somehow already September (whaaat) and even if you aren't going back to school/work, fall is a time of new beginnings. And anxieties. I read an article recently about adults experiencing back to school anxiety. Psychologist Dr. Josh Klapow said that, “Summer is about nostalgia and represents for so many of us a time when things were much more carefree,” he explained. The start of school “signals a time to go back to work. It signals that time is passing us. Kids are getting older, life picks back up.” -- and these feelings create stress!

Something that I make sure to do every fall is check in with my habits and routines. I see what's working, what's not, and make changes where necessary. Deliberately and consciously streamlining my life through habits and routines has been one of the most life changing "hacks" of my adult life. Mornings especially. 

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The early morning is my favorite time of day. But it wasn't always that way.

When I first started teaching -- like the first 4-5 years -- I was always rushing. I woke up tired and frazzled every day, rushed to get ready and out the door -- still feeling unprepared and still always tired. And the worst part: I didn't make an effort to change it -- I thought that's just what happened when you had to be at work before 7am. A part of the job.

When I started working at a new school I decided to change my habits. I had been reading about morning routines a lot (Ben Franklin's especially) and knew that I needed a change. Those rare days when I got up extra early were always the best, and I wanted more like that. 

So I made small changes. I started getting the coffee in the coffeemaker at night. I picked out my outfits in advance. I got up a little earlier. And immediately my days were better. Immediately. I had more energy, felt happier, less stressed, and more productive. 

And It's Science!

There is a lot of science behind the "larks" vs "owls" binary, but they can -- and do -- shift. I'm sure we've all heard of chronotypes -- basically, it's the time that your body is set up to sleep. Your circadian rhythms. A lark is someone who enjoys the mornings and an owl is someone who works better at night. Most studies show that, despite nearly everyone you meet claiming to be one or the other, most people lie in between. 

While chronotypes are genetically based, they are still on a spectrum and can shift. The data shows that chronotypes are likely to evolve with age in the way that you would expect -- people generally need less sleep as they get older, and their sleep patterns shift more towards a lark. 

But you can also make the change yourself. And although a lot of people talk about having the goal of "being a morning person", it doesn't seem like a lot of those same people actually do much to change their habits. 

I mean, I don't think I'm a natural morning person, but I've made myself be one for so many reasons: it fits with my career, I like sunrises, I get more done in the mornings, feel more accomplished, and happier (and I'm not the only one). I forced myself. 

There are articles outlining the morning routines of successful people all over (here, here, and here), and I don't claim to do anything different or better than anyone else (or be a successful person worth emulating for that matter). But, I am surprised when I hear coworkers and friends consistently talk about their rushed mornings. The mornings I used to have. So here are a few super simple and no duh things that I do to help get my day off on a good start. 

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Get Up Earlier (duh)

I wake up about 30 minutes earlier than the time I "need" to be up. At least. I generally wake up before my alarm, but it's set to give me that extra time. Of course, to do this successfully, you also have to go to sleep earlier :) I get at least 7-8 hours of sleep on a normal night, and the feeling of being well rested (and the way my skin looks haha) is way better than almost anything I would have stayed up for in the past. 

When I wake up I immediately make my bed. This is SO IMPORTANT. I wrote about it before, but it truly does start your day off on a positive, productive note. I've already made my bed -- I can handle anything. Just try it if you're not convinced.

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Routinize Daily Tasks

After my bed is made and I'm already feeling productive, I start the coffee, feed the cats, put on some makeup and curl my hair. Always in that order. This is important. While novelty is important in life -- it's not important for daily tasks. In fact, the less decisions you have to make on these things the better (remember decision fatigue?)

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Eat!

After my boring but necessary tasks are done, I start making breakfast. I eat the most in the morning because I know I always have a big day ahead. I generally eat avocado toast or a bagel with berries. The research on breakfast actually being "the most important meal of the day" is mixed -- but I know it's important for me. If you aren't a big breakfast person, try it for a week. See how you feel. When I started making breakfast (beyond a granola bar) a priority, I felt more energized, less hungry throughout the day, was less likely to snack, and actually lost weight. 

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Create Margin

I've written about margin before -- the time you intentionally schedule with no specific task. For the overflow. The things you don't have to do -- but want to do. I've scheduled this into my morning. Sometimes I will sit down to read a few articles or do some work for this site -- but no work emails until I am at work. I repeat -- do not use this time for work if you are not currently at work. 

I also use this time to look over my planner, to do lists, and gratitude journal. 

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Catch up and prepare

When the coffee and breakfast is ready I will sit down to watch the news and browse the blogs that I follow with my breakfast. I make sure I have at least 20 minutes in the morning for this. At least. If I don't have this time I feel very off balance. Reading random fashion blogs is mindless, but makes me feel like I am doing something just for myself, while watching the news makes me feel prepared for the day. I have time to wake up, to enjoy my breakfast, and to mentally get in the right head-space for the rest of my day. 

Then I get dressed (in the outfit I picked out the night before), get my bag and lunch (packed the night before) and head out the door. I usually stop at Starbucks because I like the human interaction and feeling of normalcy that comes from spending time with adults that aren't coworkers (and the baristas always compliment my outfits haha). I always get to work at least 30 minutes earlier than necessary in case anything comes up at the last minute and I don't check any work email until I am actually at work. Then I start my long day. Feeling prepared, refreshed, and accomplished -- all before 8 am. 


Beyond the nuts and bolts, a morning routine is important for mindset. Mindfulness. Goal setting. All those words we hear a lot but can't quite pin down. When I take time for myself in the mornings, to really enjoy my time, and be present -- the rest of the day just feels better.

I'm less anxious. Less tired. Less rushed. 

Of course, this isn't important for everyone. If you don't need to be at work at 7am (lucky), or are super productive between 8pm and 12am then go for it. But, many of us are not. Many of us want to be the early bird. And routines help. They may seem boring, but they actually give us back more time to be less boring. The better and more consistently my day starts, the more creative and exciting it can be later. So give it a try (if you don't already). What would you add to my routine?

Work Life Balancing Act

“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralysed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds' wings.” 
― Jalaluddin Rumi

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A week or so before I was due to report back to work, a couple teacher friends asked me if I wanted to get together to lesson plan. My answer was an incredulous laugh and an absolutely not. I am not paid to work in the summer, I thought (and probably actually said). But, it’s true. And it doesn’t make me a bad teacher. In fact, it makes me a much better one. Let me explain. 

Work life balance is important in all careers. Teaching especially. We, on average, spend 59 hours a week working — and even then it’s never done. There is always more you can do. Always a better lesson, more to grade, a different seating chart, parents to contact, committee meetings to attend, clubs to sponsor, sports games to go to, the list goes on. (and on and on and on). 

Another layer of guilt — all of this is helping children. To succeed, to learn, to grow — and if you could do something more, you should. Right? 

Nope. I can’t. And I’m done feeling guilty. 

Teacher or not, here’s why you shouldn’t either. 

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When I started teaching I remember staying up until the wee hours of the night trying to get my lessons together, stressing over all that I had left undone, and feeling like a bad teacher every time I missed a basketball game. I was exhausted, took naps every day, got sick all the time, and felt generally ugh constantly. And still wasn’t a great teacher! 

While there is always a learning curve, and more time will be spent in the beginning of any new venture, this was extreme. And unnecessary. 

Luckily, within a few months of feeling like the walking dead, I had a discussion with a mentor teacher. She told me she never takes work home. If it couldn’t be done at work, it didn’t need to be done. And while I was pretty good at that, the emotional baggage took a while longer. 

I’m proud to say that now my work life balance is something I am really proud of. I don’t take work home, I don’t take the stress home, and most importantly, I don’t feel bad about it. 

I’ve set boundaries and those boundaries have enabled me to actually be more productive and need way less time to do the same work. I mean, I’m not just mindlessly punching a clock to get a paycheck and summers off — I work hard! When I’m at work. Then I can leave guilt free. 

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Are you headed for burnout?

I don’t need to give you a checklist for what it might look like or feel like to be headed towards burnout. But pay attention to the signs. Are you taking on too much? What can you let go of? Why do you feel like you can’t?

One of my favorite people and inspirations is Bob Goff. He is an incredibly accomplished man — a lawyer, author, non-profit founder, US diplomat -- among many other things -- and is known for his love, care, and availability to others (he printed his cell phone number in the back of his New York Times Bestselling book and only rejects calls if he’s on a plane). And yet he quits something every Thursday. Big or small. He says that he quits for his own well-being, to open up his life and time to new opportunities, and to get out of a rut. 

In other words, you don’t have to do it all. It’s okay. Quitting isn’t going to change anyone’s opinions of you or your life trajectory. Make room for the things that are adding value to your life. Not the things you are doing because you think you should. 

And if you’re not convinced, consider this. According to a Stanford study, there is a "productivity cliff" after 50 hours of work per week. The relationship between hours worked and productivity is linear (math woo!) up until 49 hours but then falls after 50. Productivity dramatically falls after 55 hours per week (the cliff) so much that someone who works 70 hours a week produces no more than someone working 55. Whoa. 

Working more and taking on everything doesn’t make you more productive or successful. It becomes a situation of diminishing returns, while also taking a toll on your well being. 

santa fe hammock


What can you do?

Most of us don’t have the luxury of quitting our jobs or dictating much of what we do when we are there. But we can control what we do when we are not. If you want to prevent burnout and cultivate equilibrium in your work life balance, try some of these things:

1. (Try to) Let go of control

Many times we work overtime and stress out over the things that we are desperately trying to control. Realize that you can’t control it all. You can do your best, you can work hard, but then let it go. 

Worry comes from the desire for control, and worry ruins your off time. If you’re thinking about work as you go to sleep, on your weekends, or when you are with friends — you have a problem. A problem we all have, sure — but it’s still a problem that needs to be addressed and mitigated as much as possible. Realizing that the whole company/school/whatever doesn’t live or die based on how many emails you sent on the weekend is a good start. 

2. No work email on your phone

Now, this doesn’t work for all professions, sure. But for me at least, a huge life changer was taking my work email off my phone. Whatever it is — if it’s after hours — it can wait. If it cant, someone will call you. Chill out. 

And if you can’t help but check your emails outside of work hours, at least do all you can not to respond until work hours resume again. When you set the precedent of responding at all hours — people expect you to do it and will continue to contact you in this way. If you set the boundary that you are available during certain times -- and stick with it -- people won’t expect to hear from you outside of that time frame. 

3. Friends outside of work (way outside) 

This one is hard for me. Teachers tend to flock together. And I love them! I love spending time with my teacher friends BUT I need a larger circle. We all do. When you spend all your time with people in your field, your life narrows until work is literally your whole world. Which inevitably will lead to more stress and quicker burnout. 

The life of a teacher is way different than the life of a doctor. Or a fundraiser. Or an entrepreneur. Or an artist. A dogwalker. It's all different. Hanging out with a lot of people reminds you that not only are you a normal person who is not defined by their job, but that every profession has it’s problems. 

4. Get some hobbies! 

This goes along with a wider circle of friends, but seriously — get a hobby. I always think it’s crazy when people just go to work and… not much else. When you don’t have passions outside of work that drive you, even a job you love will inevitably become something that you dread. 

I wrote about the importance of a quest, and I believe it more than ever. If you don’t have something fully for yourself, you will artificially conflate your work with your purpose and value in a way that is not healthy. 

5. Check in with yourself

Schedule check in’s. Are you happy in your work? How much of your time outside of work is spent thinking about work? Do you feel like you are making a difference? Is the time you’re spending giving you joy? 

Sometimes in my class we do the beginning of the year activity "Making a pie chart of your summer". How much time did you spend sleeping? Eating? Swimming? Watching TV? We assign each hour in our day and create a pie chart to visually see how our time is spent. Even for kids it is shocking. 

What does your pie chart look like? What area is lacking? How can you enlarge it? What part of the pie can you get rid of/shrink? 

santa fe house

Caveats

Now, obviously there are situations where you just have to go full force. If you’re new to a profession, if you’re an entrepreneur or a freelancer, if you are in a new role or prepping for a short term goal/project that is audacious. 

But, unpopular opinion: if things aren’t ever getting easier, or year after year you still feel the need to put in tons of extra (uncompensated) time in order to do your job well… maybe this job isn’t the right fit for you. Maybe this company or field isn’t right. But something isn’t right. 

Ultimately, we work to live, not the other way around. Our work should give us meaning, but it shouldn't be the only source. Give yourself permission to make the shift. 

Benefits

They’re obvious, right? More time for family, friends, and your own passions. Less stress, worry, and overwhelm. When your life is in balance, everything is better. You are a better, more productive, and efficient worker. A better friend. And you have the energy to put into the things that you feel are important (and those might even be at work!) 

So get your priorities straight. While it is important and valuable to be a hard worker, remember that your work has it’s place in your life. It is not your entire life. There is so shame in leaving it where it belongs.

Scarcity and Abundance

“What we call our destiny is truly our character and that character can be altered. The knowledge that we are responsible for our actions and attitudes does not need to be discouraging, because it also means that we are free to change this destiny." - Anaïs Nin

mt evans


I think a lot about mindset. The inner beliefs we have about ourselves and the world around us. The thoughts and feelings that make up our attitudes towards our reality. And I’m not the only one. I mean, it’s sort of a buzzword lately, right? Growth and fixed mindsets are all the rage in pop psychology right now (with good reason), but I’ve been thinking a lot about mindsets that -- in my opinion -- are just as important: scarcity and abundance. 

We’ve all heard some iteration of the “is your glass half full or half empty?” illustration. Are you optimistic or pessimistic? Recently I read a quote by Shawn Achor about that dang metaphorical glass. He says, “Ultimately, however, the contents of the glass don’t matter; what’s more important is to realize there’s a pitcher of water nearby. In other words, we have the capacity to refill the glass, or to change our outlook”

Truth bomb. Whoa. Just fill up the dang metaphorical glass. You have access to everything you need. This is an abundance mindset. There is enough dang metaphorical water (piece of the pie if you prefer) to go around. If I fill up my water glass — so can you! One doesn’t take from the other. 

Someone with a scarcity mindset would focus on the lack. What is missing in the glass. Why they are being put in the position to make this decision in the first place. That it's all so unfair. They live their lives in a zero-sum game. If one person wins, another person loses. They are competing for scarce (but imagined — not talking actual resources i.e. basic survival) resources, focusing on the extreme short term of every decision. This leads to jealousy, sadness, bitterness, and negative relationships with others. 

Someone with an abundance mindset, on the other hand, has the inner self-worth, confidence, and security in themselves that enables them to see long term. There is enough water/pie/success/love/time to go around. They see the benefits in sharing -- and are happier, more influential, and ultimately powerful and successful because of this mindset shift. 

So, go fill up your dang water glass and read on to see how these mindsets can help or hinder the most important parts of your life. 

rocky mountain national park 1

Money

The most obvious effect of a scarcity or abundance mindset is the one it has on our money. Finances. Skrilla. The thing in your life that is absolutely necessary to survive, that you use every day, but that no one wants to talk about. Yeah, that. 

Have you noticed those people who are “always broke” also seem to “always be complainin’"? Their job is dead end, their rent keeps going up, bad things keep happening to them, they’re not valued at their job blah blah. Do they ever seem to get ahead? Nope. Like your mother said — not with that attitude they don’t. And I think it’s easy to see this in other people, but not always in ourselves. In our inner monologue. 

I admit this one is hard for me. I am a teacher. The fact is that even after 8 years of teaching, I still make what is an entry-level salary in many fields. And that sucks. I get into the mindset of “I’ll never have enough” more often than I’d like to admit. But I’m trying to change! 

I try to think of money as fluid. Sometimes I have it, sometimes I don’t. Ownership is a social construct — the things I have are only mine for a short time before moving on anyways. So why am I holding on so tightly? 

I have a salary, but I can make more. 

That is key. I’m not stuck in my situation. I could get a job at a different school or district that paid more, I could get a part time job, a side hustle etc. Also, I can just have a serious conversation with my employer about what I need (and I do) — then random opportunities for extra money seem to come out of nowhere. Really. You just have to ask. But you can’t ask if you don’t think it’s there in the first place. If you don’t think it’s possible. If you think there is only so much to go around. 

Bottom line: I can make more money without taking away money from anyone else. 

rocky mountain national park 2

Work

Scarcity and abundance mindsets aren’t just important in our financial lives — the effects are far reaching. How do (most of us) get our money? Well, work, of course. And our work mindsets affect our happiness and success. 

If you have a scarcity mindset, you may feel like you have no options. Like your professional options are limited, or that you will be stuck in you dead-end job forever. If someone else is a “winner” — successful, receives praise, a raise, credit etc — then that makes everyone else lose. You can’t see that other’s success does not take away from yours.

If you enter your professional life with an abundance mindset, then you realize that you have options. You can get another job — there’s always more. You’re not afraid to share the credit because you know that it doesn’t diminish your accomplishments. You are focused on growth, not afraid of failure, and don’t avoid competition. You look at situations as a win-win rather than a win-lose. 

rocky mountain national park 3

Relationships

While you may not want to take relationship advice from a single 31 year old (ha) — hear me out. I think we can all agree that neediness is a relationship killer — romantic or otherwise. But if we all “know” this, why do we constantly witness this behavior? Why do we feel the need to grasp onto something so tightly, when rationally we know this is a bad idea? 

Someone with a scarcity mindset believes (subconsciously or consciously) that there are only so many fish in the proverbial sea. If a relationship doesn’t work out, well, you’re screwed. What if that was the last available man, in your age range, with the right color hair and the ability to make you laugh at average intervals?? This leads to desperation, which leads to neediness, which leads to not another date (or an unhealthy relationship built on desperation but that’s another story). 

When you come into new relationships with an abundance mindset, every bad date isn’t a crushing blow. Losing a friend, while hard, doesn’t mean you are unlovable and destined to talk to your cats for the next 20 years (but, I mean, is that so bad?). It sounds totally trite, but there are other fish in the sea! There are bigger seas. There are rivers, lakes, aquariums. You just gotta believe it. Retrain your brain. Be deliberate. There is enough to go around. Even in matters of the heart. 

rocky mountain national park 4

Time

This one is easy. If you don’t have enough time, or are always “busy” — then you have a scarcity mindset. No one is that busy unless their priorities are out of whack. Unless they use busyness as an excuse. 

Busyness and hurrying comes from lack. Urgency, on the other hand, comes from a place of abundance. I can have a ton on my plate and still not feel like I’m out of time, because I’m deliberate in my choices. I make the time for the things that are a priority. I don’t stress over the things that are not. I schedule margin into my life — so that I don’t fall into the busyness trap. I approach tasks with urgency — not “hurried”. 

It’s all priorities, people. 

“Time comes to those who make it, not those who try to find it.” Jen Sincero

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So how do you cultivate an abundance mindset? It isn't the natural position for most of us, so here are some easy ways to start shifting:

Create Options

Don’t like your job? Get off the couch (after you finish reading this, of course) and apply for some new ones. Work on your resume. Talk to your boss. Get extra training. You know the drill. You’ve heard it before. The important part is understanding that you are creating more options for yourself. That you can. You are not stuck. You don’t have to stay in places that don’t serve you. 

The more you work towards creating options in your life, the more you are training your brain to think from a mindset of abundance. 

Everything you need is available. 

Give

The core of scarcity thinking is the belief that there isn’t enough to go around. That you have to hoard the things that you have. Material objects, money, praise, etc. Counter this by giving. Giving your time, money, objects, whatever. 

I have a rule that whenever someone asks me for money, and I have cash, I give it to them. I want to keep my relationship with money fluid. If I give it away, I know it will come back to me. I’m not holding onto it so tightly that I miss an opportunity to help someone else. I have the mindset that, just like I am giving to someone in need, that if I was in need someone would be there. 

Everything you need is available. 

Treat Yo Self

Sometimes you just gotta treat yo self. This helps in cultivating an abundance mindset in a few ways: showing yourself that no, buying a $5 green juice at Whole Foods actually won’t ruin your entire budget, that you don’t actually have it that bad, and that there is room in your life for some luxuries and abundance. 

Everything you need is available. 

Practice Gratitude

Be grateful! Duh. You have so much. You have the ability to read and understand this blog post (1 in 7 people in America can't), you have internet access ( more than half of the worlds population doesn't!), the vision to see it (1.1 million people in America don't), and a million bajillion (trust me, I’m a math teacher) other things to be grateful for. 

You’ve heard it a million times, but focus on the positive. Not the areas where you may be lacking. 

Everything you need is available. 

Mindfulness  

Mindfulness. Another buzzword. Oy vey.  But again, for a good reason. Don’t be focused on the next thing, or the thing you don’t have yet — focus on the things that are happening now. What you can do now, in this moment. 

What you focus on you create more of. Period. If you think negative thoughts, you think more negative thoughts. It’s a circular thing. Negative, limiting thoughts lead to negative, limiting actions -- which then lead back to the thought that started this whole mess. Break the chain. 

Everything you need is available. 

Scarcity and abundance mindsets, like everything, are on a spectrum. I can naturally have a super healthy, abundant mindset in my work life and a super scarce mindset when it comes to my finances. That’s okay. But remember that your mindset/brain/thoughts are like muscles — they grow with use. Use them in the right way. Be aware of your thoughts and the circular nature of negativity. Then make the change and cultivate a mindset of abundance. Everything you need is available -- take it. 

Purpose

“Find the thing you want to do most intensely, make sure that’s it, and do it with all your might. If you live, well and good. If you die, well and good. Your purpose is done” 
― H.G. Wells

vail view

The school year ended and summer vacation started for me a week ago (woo!). On the last day of work I had a friend come in to town, spent time with them over the holiday weekend, then immediately drove South to the border through New Mexico, West Texas, and three National Parks along the way. I got back late Sunday night to teach summer school the next morning -- 3 hours a day/3x per week/3 weeks - hardly work. Anyways, after the 3 hours of work, I had a couple errands to run and then went home to relax. (I’ve waited all year for this!) But, not surprisingly, I was up again within minutes to go to the drugstore to buy hair bleach and pink hair dye (don't worry - it's subtle). I don’t do well with unstructured time -- never have. I have to be doing something. Like everyone -- I need a greater purpose. 

So what is my purpose? Where do I find it? I think, for most people, purpose comes through their family and their work. My family is a thousand miles away and, in the summer, I don’t really work. If I didn’t have a clear purpose I honestly don’t know what I would do. 

What It's Not

When I first started teaching I put all of my effort, enthusiasm, and energy into my students. I distinctly remember actually being nervous for the weekends because I wasn’t sure how to spend all of the free time. I needed structure -- I still do -- but I didn’t know how to create structure around a life of purpose beyond my job. 

I don’t find my purpose in my job anymore (sorry kids). I find happiness, yes - but it isn’t what I live for - and I would argue that it shouldn’t be for anyone. What’s the phrase, “do something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”? Well, I beg to differ. No matter how much you love your job or how much you help those in need or change the world -- it’s still a job. You are still getting paid. Would you do the exact same job, with all the same duties, same hours, same emails, etc. if you didn’t get paid for it? I didn’t think so. Then your job is not your purpose. It contributes to your full, awesome life, but it isn’t the driving force. 

ward co

What It Is

Purpose is elusive. It's always changing. It stretches, enriches, and keeps you up at night (in a good way!). It’s not a job, and it’s also not a person. People are fallible -- they will disappoint you. You can’t control  a person no matter how hard you try. People and community are a part of a purposeful life, but they are not the purpose. Purpose is more. It is the things you do just because you want to do them. Because they bring you joy. They give you a reason to change. To plan. To travel. To research. To go. To MOVE. Purpose is rooted in forward motion -- even if you don’t know the destination. 

How do you know when you’ve found your purpose? Well, it’s always changing, so there will never be a moment of “this is my purpose. I have found it. I am done now.” The end point is sort of the antithesis of all of this. But, I can tell you when you know you haven’t. It’s when you’re stagnant. If purpose is movement --  the opposite is inaction. Like Leonardo da Vinci said, “Iron rusts from disuse; water loses its purity from stagnation.. even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.”

So here’s a humblebrag (sorry) -- I’ve been offered every job I’ve interviewed for (except the first job I ever interviewed for because, come on) and I’ve interviewed for tons. Like I said, I like movement. But back to my point. In my mind, I get offered jobs for one main reason -- I am interested in new things. I am interested in challenge. I specifically always point out that my greatest fear is stagnation and that in order to be successful I have to keep moving and taking on new roles. I was an interviewer for a teaching program once and that was the biggest predictor of success -- the interviewees PR score. Their personal responsibility. Do they take responsibility for their classroom? Do they invite challenges or do they make excuses? 

Excuses are at the core of stagnation. “It’s not my fault that…” “I can’t do ____ because of _____” “I don’t have enough ______.” You know the drill. I have this Annie Dillard quote on my bookshelf and it’s become something of a mantra: “How we spend our days is - of course - how we spend our lives.” Seems so simple right? But, when we’re making excuses for all the things we can’t do, or why our life is a certain way, we are in effect taking a backseat on our own lives. The most important thing that we have. 

I did a lot of work in the graduate sociological theory class I took this semester on meaning making. How people create meaning through their interactions with each other, through symbols, language… blah blah I can send you some dense articles for more, but the point is -- I create my own meaning. I create my purpose. I create my day -- which, in turn, creates my life. Following others or the excuses you’ve made will never lead to satisfaction. 

Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin (or lots of other people, the internet is unclear) famously said that they “feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they wake up in the morning, that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day.” While it’s obviously (I hope) in jest, I think some people live their lives in a similar way. They wake up with the mindset that things are going to happen to them - not because of them. They're not living for a purpose, they are living for the purpose of others. 

vail mountain

How Do I Find It?

So how do you find your purpose in life? For the day? For the hour? I’m sure it’s different for everyone -- just like a purpose is going to be different for everyone -- but there are actions that will help us all in the process. 

1. Identify your core values - This is key in everything in your life. So you get a job making tons of money that you hate - what is the point? If wealth is your core value, then you’ve got a great thing going, but I’d say for most people -- when they really dig deep -- don't have stockpiling tons of money as a core value.

Make a list of things that are truly important to you. Pay attention to the things that make you feel alive. The things you want all other parts of your life to flow from. Meditate on these things, write them somewhere you can see them, talk about them with others. Then use them! When you’re faced with any decision, activity, relationship, opportunity etc.. ask yourself if it fits in with those core values. If it doesn’t, you’re an adult and hey cool, you can say no! If it does -- go for it -- even if it’s scary. 

One of my core values is generosity. This manifests in all sorts of ways, but through it I have found deeper purpose. I am generous with my time through volunteering, I am generous with my money by contributing to causes I believe in, and I try to be generous with others by always assuming positive intentions. 

2. Risk Taking - Now, I’m not actually that risky of a person. I mostly take small, calculated risks in my daily life. But when it comes to the things that align with my core values, I take the big risks. For example, I value movement (not stagnation), so when I found myself in the same place for five years -- even though I had a job and friends I loved -- I knew that I was too comfortable. So I moved to a new city in a new state all alone and knowing basically no one. And it’s been great. And if it wasn't, well, then I'd take another risk and do something else. But I'd be moving forward.

3. Check-ins - This is the micro part. You have to check in with yourself. Like, on paper. In a structured way. That you schedule. On a calendar. Trust me here. “The days are long, but the years are short” couldn’t be more accurate (as anyone over 30 like me -- yikes -- is fully aware of). If you read a book or article (or this blog post :)) and get all fired up about something to change or move in your life -- you have to also strategically schedule times to check in with yourself about it.

Ask yourself if you’re where you want to be with ______. Have you made progress on _______. Are you being proactive in _______? Purpose can seem wishy washy, but just like goal setting -- you have to be specific. Even if the specificity is based on what you don’t want (I don’t want to be in the same place, same mindset, same whatever), you need to know what you’re trying to achieve. Again, identifying core values is the core (ha) of this work. "Is my _______ in line with my core values?" And what will you do if it isn’t? Set trip wires for yourself. “If I am still _______ by ______ I will ______.” And stick to it! 

4. Movement - Just do something! Move forward! Trust the process and don’t judge yourself too harshly. We are meant to do more than go to work and come home to sit on the couch. I try to think about my life as a series of action verbs. I literally think about how I would write what I am currently doing on a resume. I am doing things. I am active. If I can’t describe what I’m doing in this way, then I don’t do it. 

What Holds Us Back?

All of this, I’m sure, seems like common sense. But isn’t this also the biggest question of human existence? There are no easy answers, but there are common things holding us back. 

I’m not _____ enough - This is me way more than I’d like to admit. I am confident, intelligent, and as independent as anyone I know, but I still feel like I don’t have any place giving advice on, well, things like this blog post. Who am I to ____? What can I offer that isn’t already out there? What if everyone already knows all of this?

I love painting, but I know people who are better (duh). I like writing, but. The but will always be there. Because there will always be someone better than you at something. At everything. But they won’t be you. They won’t have your unique perspective. They will have all of their own unique and interesting ways of creating their world and making meaning -- and it will be great -- but it won’t be you. You are different and that is enough! 

Comparison - This goes hand in hand with not feeling good enough. We don’t feel good enough because we spend time comparing. Comparing our lives to others when we really don’t know much about them at all. Social media is a breeding ground for all kinds of unhealthy comparison. I could see someone who is successful in all the ways I want to be, doing the things I want to do (at least on Instagram), and wonder why I should even bother trying. It’s been done. They’ve done it better. They’re prettier. All the guys like them more blah blah you know how it goes. Well snap out of it. Comparison is the thief of joy and joy is, in my opinion, the most important of all emotions (feelings?) that we need to cultivate and protect. 

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” - Friedrich Nietzsche 

Our culture is obsessed with productivity. Efficiency. Life hacks. Mental Strength. Mental Toughness. Mental Powerlifting (I mean I wouldn’t be surprised), but none of those things mean anything if you don’t have a purpose. A why. It will be different for everyone - and it will be different for you - it’s ever changing. It doesn’t have to be some overly ambitious spiritually enlightened thing. Right now, if I had to describe my purpose it would boil down to “seeing things”. The thing that keeps me up at night and gets me up in the morning is all there is to see. I want to see it all. Immerse myself in experiences. Learn from them and share them. And that’s enough. I won’t go weeks without an adventure (or even days) because I know this is important to me. It gives me strength, life, energy -- purpose

So take some time and get really honest with yourself. Where are you at? Where do you want to be? Where do you find your joy? Is it consistent (because it should be!) What keeps you up at night? Why aren't you doing more of that? And most importantly -- where are you going? Are you going at all? And remember:

You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great. -- Zig Ziglar

Friday Five - 11.18.16

"Be interested in everything. You don't have to adore it. I don't adore hip-hop, I don't think it's great music, but I'm interested, I listen. I watch a lot of new films, I see everything. I still read, I like books, whether they are old books, new books. I'm interested - you gotta stay interested!' - Mel Brooks

I really enjoy the process of blogging. I like writing, sharing, photos, research, basically just creating. But the idea of a long blog post synthesizing tons of information, pictures, and maybe a joke can be daunting. So I'd like to try to start posting a Friday Five post - five things I'm super interested in this week. Not that my interests are so great you should take the time to read all about them and take them as your own - but because the process of sharing is so important and something that I really value. I love hearing about random art, articles, books, podcasts etc that other people are into and I love reading these sorts of posts from others. So here are five of my (not election related) current obsessions: 

The Unicorn Tapestries - The Met Cloisters Museum

I took a quick trip to NYC last weekend and spent the perfect Sunday roaming around the Cloisters Museum. The museum is in Upper Manhattan on the Hudson River in the middle of Fort Tyron Park. It was the perfect fall day, with the perfect company, and some really interesting medieval art. 

The best part was a room with the Unicorn Tapestries (or the Hunt of the Unicorn). It's a series of seven tapestries depicting hunters and noblemen pursuing a unicorn. The tapestries have been a mystery to critics in modern times but they are believed to have been created between 1495-1505. Some historians believe they were commissioned by Anne of Brittany as a gift to Louis XII on their marriage in part due to an A and E that are displayed in each tapestry - but this has also been refuted. 

The unicorn is such an interesting figure and the symbolism of it in the tapestries has also been the subject of much debate. "The original pagan myths about The Hunt of the Unicorn refer to an animal with a single horn that can only be tamed by a virgin; Christian scholars translated this into an allegory for Christ's relationship with the Virgin Mary." Interesting stuff.

There is a lot more information about the tapestries and the symbolism online if you can't make it to the museum - but I'd recommend it if you are in the area. Read more here, here, and here.

Grace Hopper - Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient

Grace Hopper, the "first lady of software" was one of 21 people awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom this week! Super exciting to me for so many reasons. Hopper was one of the first female computer scientists, one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark 1 computer, an admiral in the United States Navy and so much more. I painted her portrait for my classroom STEAM stars wall and I'm so glad she is getting even more recognition, albeit posthumously.

Interesting Grace Hopper story: she is believe to have invented the term "de-bugging" after she found an actual moth in Harvard's Mark II computer.  

She is awesome. Read more about her here and here

Math Gender Gap

As a math teacher who has spent three of the last 8 years teaching all girls, this study has been on my mind a ton this week. It found that the gender gap in math starts in kindergarten due to teacher and parents expectations and biases! I know this to be true from my own experience but it's still shocking to see that girls are consistently underrated in math skills when the data actually shows that they start out at the same level of ability. Boys are more likely to be called on to answer or demonstrate, and teachers in study after study are shown to have unconscious biases towards girls math ability.

This is so important for teachers, parents, mentors - everybody to address. In order to close the gender gap in STEM girls need to first believe that they are capable! (and have role models like Grace Hopper :))

Read more here and here

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

I'm reading 52 books this year so people ask me for recommendations a lot. Well, people who read books - so still not like a lot a lot haha but a fair amount of people. I just finished up Daring Greatly after it had been in my pile for months and I can't recommend it enough. I'm always skeptical of the Oprah book club variety fare but this is a revelation in so many ways.

The title comes from The Man in the Arena exerpt from the famous Teddy Roosevelt speech, Citizen in a Republic

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

This quote is at the crux of Browns research that led to her incredibly popular TedTalk on The Power of Vulnerability - and the book is basically a continuation of the talk. Brown defines vulnerability as, "uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure" and through the book explains that in order to have purpose and meaning in our lives, we must have the courage to be vulnerable.

She says, “When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make,” says Brown. “Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience.”

It seems like common sense but I honestly have felt a shift in my life since I have read this book. I have let myself be vulnerable in ways that I haven't done in the past and I feel so much freer. I could go on but you should just read the book! Or watch the TedTalk :) 

 

Summer Plans - (and that guy who dissolved in Yellowstone)

It snowed for the first time this year yesterday in Denver (after a 40 degree temperature drop in mere hours) so I have been thinking a lot about summer haha. I love summer - not just because I am off work - but the sun, the water, the mountains, the opportunity to wear backwards hats - the list goes on. 

I've been looking through some of my summer photos (like the ones taken in Yellowstone above in June) and reminding myself that just as winter comes, so does summer and soon enough I will be back out there. 

I've also been morbidly obsessed with stories about the guy who essentially dissolved in a hot spring after falling into it just a few days before I visited. I heard about it at the time but the report was just released so if you're into that stuff... look here and here. 

So there ya have it - my top fives this week. I will (hopefully) have five definitely new, maybe interesting, possibly math related things to share next week. What are you thinking about this week? Stay interested friends. 

#jessdaytuesday

"Take chances, make mistakes, get messy." - Ms. Frizzle

I love celebrating. Every day in my classroom we celebrate one of those weird National Days (today is National Food Day btw) and I have holiday decor for all seasons in my apartment down to cocktail napkins. So it's no surprise that I have made up my own weekly holiday - Jess Day Tuesday. More commonly known as #jessdaytuesday. I've gotten a lot of questions about what the heck this is, why and what I am celebrating etc. So here is the history and background of this great day.

I've always loved to theme dress. I frequently think of my outfits as "looks" (others think of them as "getup's" yikes)  and try to dress for the occasion at hand. My first foray into whimsical work dresses came with this math print dress: 

I'm a math teacher so this was an obvious purchase. But the interesting part of the dress isn't the dress - it's the feeling I get when I am wearing it. 

A lot of research has been done on the affect of clothing on our lives and self-perception. I've always known that when I look better I feel better, but there is some serious science to back it up. According to a study cited in the Wall Street Journal article "Why Dressing for Success Leads to Success" wearing nicer clothes than required raises confidence levels, affects how others perceive you, and boosts levels of abstract thinking - which is the thinking of successful leaders and executives. 

Another interesting study came from the Journal of Experimental Psychology and found that clothing affects our performance through "enclothed cognition" - a type of embodied cognition that basically means that the clothing you wear affects your cognitive process and your behaviors mirror your expectations of how someone wearing that clothing would behave. In one of the experiments,

"subjects who donned white coats that they thought belonged to doctors performed better on tests than those who wore street clothes, or those who thought the coats were associated with artists. Their heightened focus was evident only when subjects actually put on the coat in question (not merely when they were in the same room)."

So what does all this have to do with whimsical dresses on Tuesday? Well, the math dress made me take on the role of the most important teacher in history of course: Ms. Frizzle! Ms. Frizzle is the teacher in the Magic School Bus series and according to Wikipedia (and me) she is,

"eccentric and a bit strange, The Friz is intelligent, kind, resourceful, happy, funny, supportive, loving and somewhat motherly. She loves making jokes revolving around the lesson she teaches, even if she is the only one laughing. A redhead, she wears wacky clothing that reflects the subject of each adventure and earrings that glow before a field trip begins." 

If I had to be described as a teacher (or just as a person really), that is pretty much word for word what I would want to be said. And according to the enclothed cognition phenomena (and my own anecdotal evidence) the dresses help! 

So why isn't the holiday Ms. Frizzle Tuesday? Well you see that doesn't rhyme and things like that matter to me. :) Also, another fictional whimsical dressing teacher I admire is Jess Day - a character on New Girl - and since New Girl is on Tuesdays (and it all rhymes) a holiday was born! What started as a funny hashtag has turned into a vital and important part of my week.

So here is my challenge to you: think about the way your clothes make you feel and dress the way that makes you feel great/powerful/confident whatever. Maybe create your own day!! Post a selfie without shame. It's not frivolous and it's not shallow - it's fun! And it's science :)

And let me know how it goes :) 

 

how to: plan a weekend road trip

“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” – Bill Bryson

As much as I would like to spend weeks traveling the globe, my kind of travel is generally of the long weekend road trip variety. Living in Colorado makes finding beautiful places easy but - trust me - there are hidden gems near anyone. 

People ask me a lot of questions about road-trips: how I decide where to go and how I find interesting places when there. While most of my advice is common sense and you probably do most of it already, hopefully I can give you some kind of new tool to make your planning less stressful or some inspiration to start planning (Memorial Day is around the corner!). So here is the first of a series of "how to" posts covering some basics of short road-trip planning. 

car window

First: Where to go??

The first thing I do when I have a long weekend or am itching to get away is to look at a map. I start in Denver and search a radius of 4-6 hours in any direction for place I haven't been.

denver map

 

A good strategy is to find the green on a map and zoom into it! This is what I got a couple weeks ago zooming in to the Rapid City area. So many places I never would have thought about!

rapid city map

Second: Where will I stay?

After finding the area I want to go to I generally will start an airbnb search. I set the map to the same places, filter it to my price range and entire home with the dates I want to travel and see what comes up. If you haven't used airbnb before, my advice is to go for places with lots of reviews 4 1/2 stars and up. I've had only really great experiences this way. 

airbnb rapid city

If there isn't anything I like I move the airbnb map around with the cursor to see if anything else pops up. Just make sure to keep it within the distance from home that you want to travel.

This also helps with finding unique places. The best places I've stayed (tiny houses, domes, etc.) are "off-the-grid" in some form so it's worthwhile to look in the outer areas. They are also generally cheaper!

This trip didn't have a deal good enough for me so I went on to Hotwire

Love a straightforward hotel. 

Love a straightforward hotel. 

As you can see, hotels tend to be much cheaper in this area. Personally, I also knew that the objective of this trip was to spend as much time as possible visiting things outside of the hotel so having a swank or interesting place to sleep wasn't as important to me. 

I don't make the actual reservations just yet though! I just need to know where the best accommodations are to direct the rest of my search. 

Third: What will I do while I'm there?

Sometimes I visit places for a specific reason, sometimes just because I haven't been there, but generally it's a combination of both. I had never been to South Dakota, but I knew I wanted to visit Mount Rushmore. After that I was open to anything. 

Again, looking at a map is a great way to start. That's how I found that Badlands National Park was within a day trip of Rapid City. I also put Custer State Park on my list from the map. 

Reading other blogs is a great way to find well known and less known attractions. I usually start with a Pinterest search and go down the rabbit hole for a bit, pinning posts and taking notes of places that seem interesting or that keep coming up in posts. 

black hills pinterest

I also always look at the "things to do" section of TripAdvisor. It's based on reviews from real people so the content and ratings are genuine.

trip advisor

 I look at the general vicinity and also the specific city I'm staying in. The Rapid City TripAdvisor page is the reason I got to see this dinosaur: 

dinosaur park

Another great way to find interesting local attractions is instagram! Hashtags and location tags are seriously how I've found some of the greatest places I've ever been. 

I also do this with the locations I visit to make sure I don't miss out on a cool spot. It's also a great way to get inspired and excited for a trip. 

Instagram led me to Art Alley in Rapid City, an awesome alley downtown full of street art. (look out for a dedicated post - so great to find in South Dakota)

Fourth: List making!

After I have some ideas/notes/maps I write out actual distances between the places I want to go to find the best route. This (of course) starts by looking at a map and getting a general idea for what's going to be the smartest route. Then I look up distances between the points and come up with an itinerary. This helps me feel more organized and makes the best use of my time. Not a minute is wasted! 

This is what I ended up with for the Black Hills trip: 

itinerary

I didn't end up making it to Wind Cave National Park or Chapel in the Hills but knowing the possibilities made the actual trip much less stressful. 

Fifth: Book it!

Book the trip! Take the day off, confirm the hotel/airbnb/tickets etc. Be confident that you have planned an amazing trip and focus on the fun stuff!