Stop Asking #startasking #NIAW

It’s National Infertility Awareness Week again, and this year’s theme is “Start asking.” It’s a theme dedicated to empowering women to ask for the support that they need from friends, family, lawmakers, the media, etc. I’ve been feeling unsure of what to write in regards to this theme.  Couples dealing with infertility have so much going on.  Yes, I want to encourage people to advocate for themselves, but I also want those struggling not to have every conversation be a war zone for their hearts.

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If you know someone battling infertility (and you do), I want to encourage you to stop asking.  Stop asking the wrong questions and start asking the right ones.

Stop asking, “Why don’t you just adopt?”  Instead ask, “Where are you in your journey? What options are you considering?”

Stop asking, “When are you going to have kids?”  Instead ask, “What are your hopes for your family?”

Stop asking, “You have a baby, so why do you still call yourself infertile?”  Instead try, “I want to better understand your disease.”

Stop asking, “There’s always next month, right?”  Instead, go with, “I’m sorry. I’m here. I’m listening.”

Stop saying, “Everything happens for a reason.” Instead say, “I’m sorry you are suffering. What can I do to help?”

Stop saying, “My coworker’s cousin’s ex-wife’s sister got pregnant by drinking tea/eating soybeans/standing on her head.” Instead ask, “What’s your story?”

Some couples dealing with infertility are very open while others are much more private. Either way, ask your questions in a way that indicates you care for and support those dealing with this disease. If you wouldn’t say it to a cancer patient, don’t say it to an infertility patient.

There are many of us out there who want to raise awareness.  We want to share.  We want you to ask questions.  We also want you to acknowledge the physical and emotional roller coaster that we are on. Start asking questions with compassion and sensitivity.  You can never go wrong with, “How are you? How can I help?”

Currently…

My good friend Jennie has been posting these with inspiration from Katy Upperman. Since I was feeling stuck for words tonight, I decided to give it a try too!

Loving

Fleece-lined leggings, wool socks, scarves, and coffee.  It’s coooooooold outside! The best part about the cold is hunkering down in cozy clothing with a hot drink and a good book.  Basically, this is the only good thing about the cold.

Reading

I’m currently reading three books! My fiction read is Bright Lines by Tanwi Nandini Islam. Gorgeous writing accompanies this tale of three young women in Brooklyn and Bangladesh.

I’m reading two non-fiction books this week – Rising Strong by Brene Brown and Better Conversations by Jim Knight. I absolutely adore Brene Brown and the way she makes me think about myself, my needs, and how to be the best possible Erin I can do. Jim Knight’s book is definitely having an impact on my coaching conversations, and I’m excited to explore this further.

Watching

Right this moment I’m watching Gilmore Girls, which should surprise no one. Lately, Ted and I have been watching Jimmy Fallon and Elementary when we have time together.  We also jumped on the Making a Murderer train.  That’s…something…all right.

Listening To

So, when I said up there I am reading three books, I guess technically I’m reading four. I just finished listening to Awakenings by Oliver Sacks and now I’m enjoying an audio re-read of The Raven Boys.

Thinking About

I’ve been thinking about how important it is to get my needs met, and that sometimes that means I need to ask for what I need. As someone who always seeks to help and provide for others, I sometimes forget that I need other to help and provide for me.  So, I’m working on being more conscience of what I need and being more upfront about asking for it.

Anticipating

Teeth falling out!  EEK! Somehow, both of my teeny tiny babies have a loose tooth. It just doesn’t seem possible and, quite frankly, took me completely by surprise. In fact, I yelled so loudly upon discovering Charlotte’s loose tooth that she very matter-of-factly told me to, “Calm down, MOM.”

Wishing

Wishing for a clean house. It’s a little out of control these days, and no one in this house is doing a good job keeping up with putting things away.  Pretty typical for the month after Christmas, but instead of doing something about it, I’m wishing for a working wand so I can magic this mess up!

Making Me Happy

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On Grieving Those We’ve Never Met

I woke up this morning to a text from a friend. “Snape died!” At first I thought maybe she’d been doing a re-read or re-watch of Harry Potter, but then I got several more text messages and I checked the news. The world has lost an amazing person, Alan Rickman.

I’m not ashamed to express my heartbreak or to tell you that I’ve cried real tears today.  I’m not ashamed that I’ve been texting friends, posting on Facebook, and chatting on Twitter about the true sadness I feel over a man I’ve never met.  And yet…I’ve seen a lot of eyerolling and annoyance at public grief over the loss of a celebrity.  Posts about how it’s ridiculous to feel sad over someone you don’t even know.  Posts about how it’s not a real grief.

I couldn’t disagree more.

Did I ever meet Alan Rickman? No. Nor have I met David Bowie, Robin Williams, or countless others whose deaths I have mourned. You don’t have to be best buddies with someone to have them have an impact on your life. Alan Rickman’s art brought me great joy. He portrayed one of the most complex characters from a book series that holds my heart. He’s made me laugh, cry, and think. No, we weren’t friends, but I will miss him just the same.

Grief is grief. Mourning the loss of another human is what makes us human. It’s what reminds us of the fragility and value of this life we have. Surely, those closest to these celebrities are dealing with a different level of grief, but our grief is grief too. Our loss is real, whether you grieve with us or not.

What a testament to those who put their art out there to be grieved by those they’ve never met. I can only hope to be so lucky as to have that kind of influence in my own work.

Thank you, Alan Rickman, for being a storyteller. You will be truly missed.

My Favorite Reads of 2015

I didn’t meet my goal of reading 100 books in 2015, but I did read 92 books totaling 33,317 pages. I’ll take it. 2015 was a great reading year for me, so it’s been hard to narrow down my favorites. I decided to break them down into fiction, non-fiction, and audio.

2015 Fiction Favorites

Swoon! I read the entire Throne of Glass series this year, and I just adore these four books. Action, romance, magic…you won’t be disappointed!

Such a powerful, thought-provoking read for me. Adichie is a gifted storyteller and writer. Read this.

It’s hard to review this book without giving things away, but this was a fascinating dystopian read.

I. Loved. This. Book. It was funny, exciting, and full of really cool science. This was just a damn good book.

My last read of 2015 might be my favorite read of the year. A Court of Thorns and Roses was just breathtakingly good. Sarah J. Maas is an expert storyteller, and I will follow her to the ends of the storytelling earth.  I cannot wait for more!!

2015 Non-Fiction Favorites

This tiny book took me an hour to read, but it’s so packed with awesomeness that I come back to it again and again. Austin Kleon is a genius and tells you exactly what it means to put your work out there.  Everyone ever should read this.

It’s no secret that I have a bit of a crush on Sir Ken Robinson.  His TED talks make me swoon. This book is a fascinating discussion on what’s wrong with the way we do education and what we need to do to change things.

I’m not going to lie…this book is a BEAST. 400 pages. Tiny print. That being said, this book is so very interesting. It’s long, but the chapters are short and engaging. I love reading about our brains and they way we think, and this did not let me down!

2015 Audio Favorites

This was so fun, so touching, so lovely. Even if you’ve never seen The Princess Bride (GASP! Fix that right now), this is an awesome book. Cary Elwes shares such wonderful stories of his time working on the film that I fell in love with it all over again.  Plus, you get to listen to him narrate!

Without a doubt, this series was some of the most delightful reading I’ve ever done.  I listened to the first three on audio and often couldn’t wait to have to drive somewhere so I could listen more. You might not think steampunk is your cup of tea…I didn’t…but you might just want to check out this finishing school for spies!

Wow.  Just…wow. Alan Cumming is a talented actor, but he’s also a gifted writer. This book is not your typical celebrity memoir. Cumming reflects on his dark and troubled relationship with his father. It’s vulnerable, raw, and Cumming’s narration brought me to tears several times.

I love this trilogy before listening to the audio, and I love this trilogy even more after listening to it. Spectacular.

So, there you have them.  Some of my favorite reads of 2015. What were your favorites?

Cultivate

My one little word for 2016 is…

Cultivate

I have never been big on resolutions, but I love having a word to guide me and provide inspiration throughout the year.  Last year, my word was “spark”. It was a great little word that kept me going and reminded me to take a chance on the things I wanted to do most.  Cultivate feels like such a natural follow up to spark.  To cultivate is to actively work to make something better. Looking at the year ahead, cultivating is about building habits and keeping a growth mindset.

Last year, my word was about getting started, and this year my word is about growth.  Growth doesn’t just happen.  Change doesn’t just happen. We have to work for it.  There are several habits, ideas, and projects that began in 2015 that I very much want to tend and care for this year.  Some are simple things like continuing to build healthy habits like drinking more water than coffee each day.  Some are a deepening of well-established habits such as reading outside my own preferences, experience, and comfort zone. Some are about my work in schools and continuing to cultivate an understanding of connectedness and innovation in my school district. I want to take the next steps.  I want to put myself and my ideas out there. I’ve planted my little garden and I’m ready to help it grow.

I’m going to grow in 2016, and I’m going to do my best to help others grow with me. In addition to my own personal growth, I want to cultivate kindness, cultivate curiosity, and cultivate innovation in those around me. I have big plans. Let’s do this, 2016!

If Only I Had a Time Turner

I generally don’t like to gripe about time because it’s true what they say…we all have the same 24 hours in a day.  Still, there are days when I struggle to fit it all in. With 24 hours in a day, it can be difficult to find the time to be the best professional I can be, the best mom I can be, the best wife I can be, and (the one most often neglected) the best Erin I can be.

It’s all about balance, right? Aren’t we always talking about balance and how to achieve it? For me, the struggle with balance is having to recognize that I cannot give 150% of myself all the time.  It’s simply not possible to run at full-throttle in everything I do, especially when I end up at the bottom of the list.  It’s about priorities, and sometimes that means I need to be full-throttle Erin and put myself first.  Easier said than done!

As much as I’d like to laze about all day reading, writing, and watching half a dozen episodes of Gilmore Girls, the reality of life is that days like that are extremely rare. Since I can’t necessarily dedicate a full day to myself on a regular basis, I’ve been intentionally finding ways to carve out time for myself during the day.  Listening to audio books in the car has been a great way for me to find time to read, but also to give my brain a break during the day. It’s become such a zen part of my day that I can hardly believe I ever went so long without it. I took a few minutes to jot down notes for this post while I was boiling water for dinner.  The girls were occupied with a show and the words were fresh in my mind. I often find myself inspired to write during moments when I can’t just stop my day to get my thoughts out.  I can, however, scribble on a notepad while cooking in order to preserve my ideas for when I have time to develop them later.

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I’m working hard to build those small moments of time for myself into my day.  Without those moments, I feel harried and overworked.  With those moments, I feel slightly closer to sane.

How do you build time for yourself into your busy lives?

Wherein I Dub Myself “Hashtag Girl”

My Streaks app is telling me that today is a writing day.  I’ve been using Streaks to help me set some habits.  Right now it includes writing 3 days per week, doing Barre3 four days per week, picking up for 10 minutes a day, and drinking more water than coffee.  Anyhow, my app is telling me I need to write, so I’m writing even though I’m not entirely sure what to write about.

I’m struggling a bit with some things that are happening at work.  It’s a long story, but there is some political yuckiness happening with the school board.  I’m struggling with my passion for my work, my desire to hug everyone and tell them it will be ok, and my desire to shout from the rooftops that people need to sit up and pay attention.  Basically, I want to fix everything…and I have to recognize that I can only do what I can do.  It’s making me especially emotional because not only have I worked for 11 years in my district, next year my daughters will start school in my district.  It’s personal. It’s emotional. It’s not my favorite. I’m working on doing what I can, being the best me I can be, and helping our district, teachers, and students to shine.

I’m sort of the Hashtag Girl these days.  I push colleagues to tweet and use our district hashtag.  It’s always important for us to show our work and tell our story, but especially so in difficult times.  We have to own our stories and not let others tell them for us.  We must avoid the danger of a single story.  I truly believe that owning our story is transformational, so I’ll keep on pushing us in that direction.  One tweet at a time.

This is 35

Thirty-five is recognizing that my voice is always with me. 

Thirty-five is knowing what I like and what I don’t like. 

Thirty-five is feeling more comfortable in my own skin than ever before. 

Thirty-five is being brave enough to say what I think, to stand up for what I believe in, to admit when I need help. 

Thirty-five is a coffee addiction. 

Thirty-five is recognizing the people who build me up and taking a pass on those who tear me down. 

Thirty-five is seeing how far I’ve come since twenty-five and seeing how far I can go by forty-five. 

Thirty-five is being proud of who I am. 

Thirty-five is not nearly enough sleep, but lots of love and snuggles. 

Thirty-five is being the mom to two five-year-olds. 

Thirty-five is rocking my fashion sense. 

Thirty-five is a messy house, messy desk, messy car. 

Thirty-five is completely owning my goofy, nerdy, ridiculous self. 

Thirty-five is knowing how important quiet time is for my soul. 

Thirty-five is grey hair and a few extra pounds. 

Thirty-five is knowing when to say yes and that it’s ok to say no. 

Thirty-five is looking pretty good so far. 

  

Tell Me What To Do/Don’t Tell Me What To Do

In my role as a coach over the past few years, I’ve had many conversations with teachers where someone said to me, “Please just tell me what to do,” and then, sometimes in the same breath, followed that with, “I don’t want to be told what to do.” I have had similar thoughts myself as a teacher, a coach, and a parent. Just tell me what to do…except I’m the expert on my students/teachers/children so don’t tell me what to do. Every time I’ve heard or felt this, I’ve been confused. We can’t have it both ways…right? How can these seemingly polar opposite ideas coexist?

I’ve recently had an epiphany.

As with many of my epiphanies, this one came to me while I was reading…and reading something not related to education at that.

In the book Being Mortal, Atul Gawande explores aging, dying, and death in the modern medical age.  He uses research and storytelling to bring forth the idea that quality of life is what we are looking for at the end of our time. My epiphany occurred while reading a chapter on nursing homes and assisted living.  What Gawande brings to light is that in elder care structure, routine, and autonomy are key.  Nursing homes have the structure and routine part working like a well-oiled machine, but they often neglect the autonomy. The elderly who live on their own have their autonomy, but they may lack the structures and supports to keep them as safe and healthy as possible. For a successful, healthy, fulfilling life both components are necessary. I immediately connected this idea with my experiences as an early childhood special education teacher. My students needed a predictable routine and classroom structures in order to feel safe and to know what to expect.  They also needed time and space to practice being independent and to explore their interests.  If I structured every minute of their day, not only would they be bored and rebel, but they wouldn’t learn anything.  On the other hand, if I just made my classroom a free for all, it would be stressful environment that lacked the safety necessary for learning. It’s about the balance of both.

In my work as a coach, I’ve discovered that these conversations about support and autonomy happen across grade levels.  All of our learners thrive on the healthy balance of structure and independence.  This is where is hit me: teachers ARE learners.  If this is true for our students, it’s true for us as teachers too. When we say, “Tell me what to do but don’t tell me what to do,” we are asking for support in finding that balance.  Show me how to structure my work, but don’t hand me a script to read off of.  Help me have a routine for what I need to do, but recognize that I bring my own expertise into the classroom.  As a coach, I need to recognize that teachers may be seeking structure and routine as well as autonomy and independence. I need to be aware that they may need more structure in some areas than others, and I need to help them find the right balance.  Now that I have a better handle on what, “Tell me but don’t tell me,” means, I can use this knowledge to better serve and support teachers…and myself!

Hi – A Reentry Blog Post

You can’t find your voice if you don’t use it. Or so says Austin Kleon. Lately, I haven’t been using my voice as much as I would like. I want to write, to reflect, to tell my story, to show my work.  I want to write about my work and my family and books and cheese…you know…the important things.

I keep getting stuck, though.

Part of it is that my job is so reflective that reflecting has come to feel like work in the most banal sense of the word.  I am extremely reflective by nature and find it rejuvenating, but I haven’t been doing it enough for myself lately.  My work as a coach has me supporting others’ reflections and reflecting on their reflections. Reflect, reflect, reflect.  I have to make sure that I’m part of that reflection.  I have to make sure I don’t get lost in the reflection.

And that brings me to the second reason I keep getting stuck – I keep thinking I’ve lost my voice. I haven’t though.  I just keep forgetting to use it. My wonderful friend Jen Vincent wrote a lovely blog post about me this summer. As part of her post, she read through my entire blog (no small feat) and compiled her favorite words of mine into this slideshow.

Erin Jackle is Awesome from Jennifer Vincent

I have come back to this slideshow again and again, and it never fails to surprise me.  Those are my words! That’s my voice! It’s always been there, and I just need to use it.