The Achiever on Vacation

As an Achiever (see previous blog post for details) vacations can be hard on me. Sometimes space opens up and the clouds lift and I’m able to just be, to just relax. More often that doesn’t happen, or happen for very long, and I’m back to thinking, “What have I even done on this break?” Because, you  know, how can you lord over someone how relaxed you are — there’s no winning in that, you’re too relaxed!

That said, one good way for an Achiever to find a little balance is by reframing their achievements and focusing on the achievements in a non-work task or activity. So for this winter break I wanted to accomplish the following:  1. Read everyday, 2. Exercise six times (yes that’s very specific — but trust me — complex calculations took place before deciding on six), and 3. Be in the moment at least once a day.

I’m happy to say that I’m well on my way to achieving the crap out of this vacation. And to celebrate, I’m going to list a few of my smaller accomplishments.

  • Watched the entire Twilight series over the course of two days — eventually my eyes started to hurt but it felt good to just sit and revel in a guilty pleasure
  • Sat in a cafe and read The Sun cover to cover — so good!
  • Played Let’s Go Fishin’ with family members on Christmas Eve — things got intense with the grown ups
  • Tried a new recipe for Christmas Day — delish!
  • Yoga with one of my favorite teachers and spent 99% of the class just enjoying it — normally my mind is in 110 places at once
  • Glow in the dark mini-golf with some hilarious kids, oh, and some PacMan and Skee-Ball and that silly drop the claw and try to get the prize game
  • Snuggling with the cat on the couch

None of that seems very impressive — a fancy vacation to the Bahamas it is not — but as someone who wants to win everything, everyday, all day long seeing these small acts as a achievements is hard for me — so I count these activities and my perspective on them both as wins.

And honestly, even if I weren’t an Achiever driven to accomplish Big Things everyday, who cares if this simple list was my dream vacation, best of all worlds? Why let myself get sucked into trying to compete with other people’s lives — ones that are very likely highly curated and filtered? Most of life is the everyday, and cherishing these everyday moments — and recognizing them as moments to cherish — is an achievement in itself.

The Achiever at Christmastime

At the beginning of the school year I took the Clifton Strengths assessment, a kind of long survey that asks you to rate what you prefer between two choices or what you think about two options. I wasn’t shocked when my top strength came up as “Achiever.”

Achievers like to write lists and check things off, get things done, and not only work long hours but work hard. Based on how I see other people spend their time during a work day and a work week I just thought I was a crazy person when it came to work, but it made sense after I read the description. It sounds like me. And in some ways I now understand why, in the past, I drove many of my co-workers crazy.

I’m learning to manage my achiever tendencies at work, and I’m trying to see other areas of my life as arenas where I can achieve — like Christmas!

Oh, and I’ve done it this weekend. From Friday night after work when nothing in our house seemed Christmas-like or Christmas-ready to Sunday night at 9pm when I write this, things are a near 180. Christmas presents for everyone on the list? Check! Tree up and decorations out? Check! The numerous holiday cards and matching postage are ready to go — just waiting for some friends and family to get back to me with their addresses. Oh, and have you heard? We talked it over and we’ll be hosting Christmas Day, maybe up to 25 people! I guess I just have to send out those invites…

You see what I did there? I crushed it! But wait — is that the way the holiday season is meant to be done? Are we supposed to crush Christmas? Yeah, probably not. But as an Achiever, the to do list is both anxiety-producing and addictive to get done, and except for a few loose ends and waiting for Christmas Day to come, most of it is done. And the loose ends that are hanging? It’s taking all my might not to stay up till midnight tonight and do them — the lesson planning and grading that’s due tomorrow be damned!

That said — I’m going to take a deep breath and try to let the list and all the doing it entails go. Because what’s the point of a holiday season if I’m going to try and crush it all into one weekend? There’s fun and enjoyment in letting a few things stay undone, saving them for next weekend, or even a spontaneous weeknight between now and December 25th.

It’s hard for me to not want to turn Christmas and the holiday season into another whirlwind, 12-hour day, accomplishment. But I’m going to try my best to let things linger and last. And maybe that will be my achievement this holiday season, pushing myself to allow a few things be undone — or spontaneously done — rather than listed, scheduled, and checked off at breakneck speed. After all, I’m not Santa:  I don’t have to get it all done in one night.

singing or asleep?

A few weeks ago, at the start of the summer, really, I went with my wife and a friend to a special event where we got to lay in a dark room and listen to a musician make crystal bowls and glass objects sing. I know, I know — depending on how interested or open you are to “woo woo” types of activities, this event may seem like either the best or the worst way to spend a Friday evening. Believe me, I get it. But, even if you’re not into the energy of life, letting go of things that don’t serve you, and opening up space in your energy field for magic, it’s still nice. After all, you get to lay down and rest — and the music’s not bad.

That said, I was there laying on a couple of stacked yoga mats with a bolster and some blankets, making myself comfortable to enjoy this …experience. It was my first time at this type of event, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would it be weird? Would it be cool? Would my dead grandparents or future children come to me and tell me something deep? Would I just be uncomfortable laying on the floor for 90 minutes without a mattress?

The musician found that nice balance of alert and playful as she greeted us and helped us settle in, the lighting soft and dim, and I felt more comfortable on the floor than I thought I would. When the musician’s set began I immediately started to relax and breathe more deeply. The bowls and glass contraptions made a soft, resonating tone that filled the room floor to ceiling. I felt my body vibrate softly, too — not uncomfortable, but a distinct, non-me vibration. It was was weird and it was cool and I settled into a deep stillness to absorb the changing tones and volumes and — kind of like night tennis — to use my other senses to tune into the music’s movements as the musician walked the room with her instruments. I didn’t see any ghosts or visions, but my whole body and even my mind began to relax and take in sensation rather than words. Ah…

At some point, I did have to shift around on my mat and that’s when I noticed it:  snoring. There were about a dozen of us in the L-shaped room laid out in a variety of angles and postures and I couldn’t quite tell where the sound was coming from but it was most definitely a snore. At first I was annoyed but then I re-relaxed and reflected. Maybe someone needed the rest and this was their only chance during the week to have that time to just be still, with no outside demands on them. The snoring flagged then faded away. Back to the singing, sounds resonating, the vibrations and energy. Then it happened again. More snoring. But from somewhere else in the room. And while that person sawed away, another person joined in. Now snoring was in stereo!

It continued on and off for the rest of the session, ending with at least one snort when the music itself ended. As soon as stereo snoring began, I decided to have a sense of humor and imagine that the snores were part of the sound experience, an extra flourish to the spiritually healing soundscape. But truly, it made me wonder — what was it about this setting or this experience that put multiple people to sleep? Were they so rundown or overworked that this was their only place to find rest? That in itself seems problematic, even sad. Imagine — having to go somewhere outside your home and pay just to guarantee yourself 90 minutes of uninterrupted rest. Or maybe it was something else. Maybe they were unable to be present in a relaxed body — they were so unaccustomed to being simultaneously awake and relaxed that once they reached a certain point of relaxation their minds just checked out and they slipped away. Maybe the healing they were looking for was there and accessible for them, but they just couldn’t be awake for it, they couldn’t be present and clear for it — whatever the reason or barrier.

And that led me to think about myself — where am I asleep in my life? What are the experiences that I’ve had or often have where I’m not present or clear for it? And why is that? Am I physically exhausted? Am I stressed or anxious about things that are beyond my control? Am I holding on to old pain, limiting ideas or ideals that keep me from taking in and absorbing what’s around me, keep me from growing or changing, keep me fuzzy and unfocused? And if so what can I do to get clear, be alert and playful?

Each of those questions deserves a lot of reflection and action, so I can’t answer all of those here and now, but I can say that time and space, quiet and stillness are key tools that help me clear out. And I guess the unexpected, like snoring, can’t hurt with keeping me alert and playful.

Can I be a housewife already?

I just finished watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon and I loved it so much — engaging characters, funny dialogue, beautiful sets and costuming.

Anyway, something that I was vibing on while watching the show is the housewife lifestyle. I know it’s not very progressive or feminist or pro-women to say this, but so often I wish I could be a housewife. To be perfectly honest, the things I like to do best are the things that have to do with the home and “homemaking.” I like cooking and baking, I don’t mind running errands or budgeting and bill paying for the household, I love gardening and decorating, I get a good amount of satisfaction from cleaning, and I enjoy the process of planning and hosting people at our home for events and holidays. What can I say? I’m a house nerd.

However, with a full-time job that I often work 10 hours a day — plus a half-day most weekends — I’m not able to take care of the household as I’d like. My wife shares the responsibilities, of course, but it never seems that there’s enough time for us to do our paid jobs well, take care of the house well, and take care of ourselves well, too. During a good week we’re maybe 2 for 3, but hardly ever 3 for 3, you know? And I can see why, in the age of nuclear families, it makes sense to have one adult work outside the home earning the money and the other adult staying home to work that front. Because doing both can be a lot, especially if you want them done well. (And by “well” I mean not eating a grilled cheese or a can of soup every night for dinner or leaving laundry to build up to an avalanche-inducing height before I get to it…)

And this is not to disparage anyone who is trying their best to bring home the bacon and fry it up, too. I’m currently a member of that group and if anything I’m acknowledging that it’s damn hard to do both — it’s exhausting, actually. But, if I’m wishing to take a timeout from the breakneck speed of trying to do both work and home life, I can’t be the only one.

The Hermit Crab As Teacher

Over a year ago, my wife bought a pair of hermit crabs as class pets for her second grade students. She’s had hermit crabs before, and she’s heard that if the environment is too stressful for them they cannot thrive, and in some instances if it’s too stressful, then they die. In the end, her students were a little too rowdy for the crabs to live happily in the classroom, so Ralph and Miss Honey came home one evening, and were home to stay.

Both Ralph and Miss Honey were extremely shy. They rarely came out of their shells, and when they did it was only briefly for food or water. Then they’d retreat to opposite corners of their tank and burrow down through the peat and soil, all the way to the glass bottom. At times I’d forget they were even in there, their vigilance and deep commitment to their namesakes a given.

During the first few months at home they also behaved oddly, at least according to my wife. They switched shells with one another more than once, despite there being at least two or three other options in their tank. They even refused hermit crab food and would only eat fresh vegetables or fruit, and exclusively watermelon for a while.

Over summer we were out for a day or two, maybe on a short day trip or vacation, I can’t remember, and when we came back we saw that they’d switched shells again, but that this time Ralph was missing his big claw. Those claws are their most important asset, their main self-defense weapon. Those claws even seal them off from the outside world when they retreat into their shells. Poor Ralph with no claw. But amazingly, he survived at least another few weeks without it. One day my wife came home and went to check on them and say hello, and she saw that Ralph was no longer with us. It was down to just Miss Honey. Solitary Miss Honey.

And she’s lived alone ever since, changing tanks once, but other than that living quietly and elusively for months, rarely coming out and retreating quickly whenever we’d walk by or bend our faces to the tank to say hello. At one point my wife researched how hermit crabs get to pet stores — you know, are they bred, trapped in the wild, all that. Turns out their journey to a pet store is traumatic:  they’re captured from the wild, then put into large sacks with hundreds of other crabs, many having their shells cracked open or dying along the way. By the time they arrive in display cases in pet stores, they are most likely battered physically and to whatever depth they feel and sense, they are likely psychologically or emotionally battered, too. Makes sense that she is the way she is. If she could speak, she’d probably say Humans? Fuck humans, I’m staying in my shell.

However, my wife has continued caring for Miss Honey, even after her violent incident with Ralph, overcoming her own dislike of seafood to serve Miss Honey shrimp, cutting up tiny pieces of fresh fruit and veggies for her everyday, changing her waters (hermit crabs need both fresh and salt water), spraying down her tank and checking the temperature to make sure she’s living in an optimal environment, and gently talking to her at least once or twice a day. I too have walked by and occasionally seen her out — rather, I’ve seen her shell on the surface instead of burrowed down as far as possible — and I’ve taken the time to say hello and observe her, tried to admire her strange little antennae and skinny walking legs, her jet black eyes on stalks. She was the ghost pet of the house, a figment or a specter, but I thought, well, you never know if she’s listening, might as well be kind.

And after all this time, nearly a year, she’s finally finally come out. I think on Thanksgiving, when we hosted almost 20 people and we were at our noisiest, one of the cousins saw her walking around her tank. Miss Honey, just out for a stroll. I was so surprised, but also delighted. I took it that she too was making an effort to be hospitable for the holiday.

~~~   ~~~   ~~~

I’ve sat here across from Miss Honey on the couch many times:  her tank light glowing, water drops humidly clinging to the sides, no movement or life apparent, but I know she’s in there, up to something. And as a living creature she is so much like so many of us:  she’s been battered along her journey, and thus scared to no end, convinced it’s best to stay hidden away or strike first before being hurt again herself. But I’d also like to think that she is an example of the victories, large and small, that we can all have with finding safety and beginning to trust, of allowing care and kindness to touch us even when it’s at the risk of re-injury.

My wife has played a significant role in Miss Honey’s story. Sometimes holding out our hands, offering love and care consistently and patiently and without expectation is the cure that a battered heart needs. And like my wife caring faithfully for Miss Honey, the response and the validation may not come right away, but it is the right remedy.

We are mysteries inside our own shells with our own complicated histories and hurts, trials and successes. Sometimes we stay buried and sometimes bravely push ourselves to go out for a stroll. And sometimes we are the gentle and patient caregiver, giving just to give, participating in the rebuilding and the healing one day at a time, knowing that one day our hermit crab will emerge from her shell.

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Which Is Better: Your Best or Good Enough?

Doing my best, trying my hardest, giving it everything I’ve got is a big part of my identity — especially when it comes to work. As a kid, school (the junior version of work) came pretty easily to me, but I would still try my hardest, study diligently for tests, strive for my personal best, look for ways to challenge myself, all that. Even in high school, most Friday nights I’d sit at my convertible dresser / desk, consult my meticulously written out homework agenda, and get to work. And it wasn’t because I wanted to get it out of the way to open up the rest of my weekend, it was because I wanted to feel that feeling of achieving and doing things well. Same thing in college, grad school, and on into my adult work life. Problem is, this work ethic and my perfectionistic tendencies have caused a lot of stress and heartache.

I’m currently in my eleventh year of teaching and sometimes I still feel like I put in as much time and effort as a rookie. Lately I’ve been reflecting on reasons why — and I don’t want to make excuses for myself — but from what I can see there are a few major factors, some that I can control and others that I can’t and never could have.

First and foremost, teaching is one of those professions that can become a 24/7 occupation. If I spent my full energy thinking about each of my students, their unique talents and needs, and then designed meaningful and personalized learning for each of them that in itself could be an endless task — not to mention developing a beautiful, enriching, and engaging classroom; creating attractive and interactive bulletin boards in the hallway; reaching out to all the kids’ parents regularly via their preferred communication method; continuing to develop my professional capacity with after school, weekend, and summertime opportunities; applying for grants and writing Donors Choose proposals; the list goes on and on and each task — when done to the best of my ability — could be a nearly full-time job on its own besides the task of teaching the kids who come to learn something with me everyday. So there’s that. Teaching is hard.

Second, my early career — and even my pre-service experience — was rocky at best. As a student teacher my cooperating teacher didn’t even know I was going to be with her (for the entire school year!) until I sat down next to her in August and introduced myself. Just imagine — she had had no idea that for the entire school year a 25-year-old was going to be shadowing her, observing her, and hoping to eventually take over her classroom instruction. She was also not the best model of how to teach creatively or use time efficiently. Just to give you some context:  she had 15 students and taught out of basals — essentially pre-written curricula in all content areas — and was still at work every day until after six o’clock at night reviewing lessons and wondering to herself what to teach. Once I got into my own classroom, the first four years were a different grade level, a different classroom, or a different school. First it was first grade, then it was a triple split with first, second, and third graders all in the same room, then it was just third grade but I had to move classrooms, then I was in a brand new school with no curricula at all and I was responsible for writing essentially all of it with a team of strangers. Phew! After that, I was in the same classroom teaching the same grade, but turnover at my newer school was so high that for four years the entire team was new each year — except for me — so I was responsible for guiding my new team members through curricula I’d written and then managing, revising and rewriting that curricula with each new team. So there’s that. Teaching is really hard.

All the while, through every major change, I felt very responsible for my students and an obligation to do my very best. Because the kids needed me and because doing a job well is an expression of me, of who I am as a person. It’s been a huge part of my identity to do things well, actually — if I want to be fully honest — it’s been a huge part of my identity to do things the best, to be the best, to be outstanding. And for many years I’ve strived to do just that and many times I’ve stayed at work 11, 12, 13 hours a day, working half-days on Saturdays and Sundays, and over breaks, too. I’m doing things “the best,” but when I’ve had those moments to step back and look at my life as a whole rather than just work, work is the only thing getting done — no time or energy for eating right, exercising, socializing. And now that I’m in my eleventh year of teaching, I’m tired. Because teaching is hard, and because it’s hard to give it my all, all the time, and in many cases for it to make not that much of a difference to anyone but me.

So this is where I am — stuck — and maybe in transition. Some days I leave my classroom feeling like a failure:  I have dozens of things left on my to do list and it’s unlikely they’re going to get done anytime soon. Certain lessons or moments didn’t go the way I planned or wanted, and I just don’t feel like I gave it my all. Other days I look around the room — mess that it is — shrug, tell myself I did the best I could with what I had, remind myself I have a life to live outside of work, turn off the lights, and leave.

And on those days, even though I’m gone, in my car on the way to the gym or home to cook dinner, looking forward to a new episode of Fixer Upper or another couple of chapters from a library book, there’s this nagging, needling feeling that keeps me wondering — is it okay that today was good enough, or should I have really tried my best?

Addicted to the Big Reveal

So this winter break I’ve become really interested — okay addicted — to an HGTV show called Fixer Upper. Despite this show, and this network really, being responsible for my wife and me thinking we could buy a building (and then we did) I still love this show. And what’s not to love?

There’s the typical goofy husband / beautiful wife combo who work with clients to make their dream homes become reality. There’s some silliness during construction, a peek at the Gaines’ growing family and their animals at Magnolia Farms. It’s great.

What I especially love is that Big Reveal at the end. Ooh, I just friggin’ love it!!! The couple is nervously laughing and their shoulders are all tense, or they’re grabbing one another’s hands in anticipation, and Joanna or Chip ask, “Are you ready to see your fixer upper?” and the couple says “Yes!” and then the screens are pulled away and then someone shrieks with joy, or the couple hugs, or they exchange handshakes or hugs with Chip and Joanna. It’s the best, that moment of unveiling and sharing after such a long time of waiting and hoping and wishing and dreaming for the day.

I love the moment of the big reveal because energetically, spiritually even, it feels like a big moment of exchange, of following through with all your promises and giving it everything you had, of showcasing earnestness and honesty, of having every good intention fulfilled and put on display, of giving and healing — healing both the home owners and the home itself. It’s the final moment of taking someone’s trust (and money, of course) and turning it into a newness that was previously only imagined in the mind’s eye. The home, the place where our bodies and minds come to rest and where our energy is replenished, is made new. It’s just so… — I just love it.

And in some ways, New Year’s Eve feels like that, too. Tonight is the big reveal on the new year, on the start of 2018, something new and fresh. It’s like a backyard full of freshly fallen snow, and no one — not even a sparrow or a stray alley cat — has stepped foot on it yet. It’s blank, and the potential seems endless.

The tricky thing is what to do — and how to live — once we get that clean slate, that do-over, that moment of starting anew. I know I’ve had many Mondays where “this is the week that everything will go just the way I want it,” and of course it doesn’t — because life is a messy organism. And after one fail I wait for the next Monday, and it turns out that over the years I’ve spent a lot of time waiting to start over.

So I go into this new year focusing on the big themes I want to heal and make new — no, not make new — just see and live in a new way. Because we all have lives that are just like these fixer uppers — the bones are good and the potential is there, we just have to see it in ourselves and then lovingly, day after day, choose the path that creates change and fulfillment — one little Big Reveal at a time.

Taking Things Apart

About two weeks ago, I came home from work to see my mom and wife preparing to take apart the pipes under the kitchen sink. The sink had been draining slowly for a few days and she had decided to call my mom, who knows a few things about home maintenance and repair, so that she could learn to do it herself. Three hours later, after a trip to the hardware store and a few breaks to just stare at the mess we’d made, the sink was put back together and draining just like it should. The process, though, was very uncomfortable for me. Partially because I didn’t know that The Kitchen Sink Project was going to happen, and partially because I feel very uncomfortable with taking things apart and making a mess.

In part some of my discomfort — that borders on dread — stems from my upbringing. And what better way to get to know myself and my childhood hardwiring than to throw myself into new or uncomfortable situations? My mom liked a very orderly, neat and clean house. And I don’t blame her:  she was a single mom with two kids and she had to go to whatever lengths she could to make sure we were clean, clothed, fed, and educated. As a result, keeping a tight schedule and an orderly home was the cornerstone of my childhood. Neat and orderly is generally a good thing, but sometimes there can be too much of it.

I remember as a kid, probably around 10 or 12, I felt inspired to draw, so went to take out some art materials. I opened up the cabinet and reached for the little plastic watercoloring set that we had had for years, but at the thought of having to control and then clean up the mess, I stopped myself. Rather than deal with the burdens of mess and clean up, I chose to avoid it. I chose to do something else instead. And that wasn’t the only time. As I grew up if I could do something cleaner, tighter, more contained, I chose that option. I systematically began to avoid messes, experimenting with materials, taking things apart, getting dirty.

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Odds and ends from the tool closet.

The philosophy of staying need, tidy, and contained continued at school, too. When it came to those typically messier, more hands-on subjects like art or science, my teachers trotted out the easiest possible options. Paper and pencil drawings in art, maybe occasionally something like paper mosaics with construction paper and glue. And for a real treat, drawing with oil pastels or chalk on paper. In science, work mostly revolved around textbooks — books we couldn’t even take home to read, because in middle school there was a set of 30 for about 90 of us. In fifth grade I got to dissect an owl pellet, but I think my teacher only got five or six, so we had to share in groups of five or six. For me as a student, explorations meant looking on from a safe distance — from behind glass at a museum, by looking over my grandpa’s shoulder at his workbench, by wondering in my head and just leaving it at that. Maybe sometimes I’d look it up in a book.

And what does this mean? In part I see that it makes me really aware as a homeowner that I am uncomfortable with fixing things, with taking things apart, and making them work again. I’m afraid to make a mess. Partially because there’s the nuisance of cleaning up afterwards, but also because I’ve never really dealt with this kind of mess before. I haven’t had the chance to explore under someone else’s guidance. And as far as the house is concerned, I’m both child and adult as I begin this process of learning. I’m leaning how things work, I’m pushing myself to explore pieces and parts of the house and how things go together, I’m trying to build the belief in myself that if I take something apart I will have the know-how to put it back together again.

That experience with the sink was small, but empowering. With some perseverance, a little willingness to experiment, some coaching from my mom and encouragement from my wife, I did it — actually my wife and I did it. And afterwards I felt that click in my head, that particular part of my body and brain turn on and get excited. I felt the rush of doing something real for myself and my house. And as a teacher it made me want to bring that rush of excitement, that kind of learning experience, to my students.

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My grandpa’s tool, now mine.

Because truly, how often do they get to explore and play — and with something that can eventually become real and meaningful? Culturally I see that there’s a push for kids to be “college and career ready.” And as a teacher I believe in education. Of course. But the obsession with college and “good jobs” is, frankly, bullshit. We see that the most recent generation of young adults is deep in college loan debt, to the point of being paralyzed by it. And in many cases, I see that people don’t know how to do. Generally speaking, we don’t cook for ourselves very much, we don’t fix things for ourselves, we don’t make or manufacture things for ourselves. Because — didn’t you know? — that’s someone else’s job. Somewhere along the line of pushing our children to be college and career ready we began devaluing and distancing ourselves from the valuable work of taking things apart, fixing things, and making them work again. Which to me is one of the most real things a person can do. It’s a tangible example of our realness and our power in the world outside ourselves.

And as I get of taste of my own realness, my own power to fix and make things, I see that I’m starting to question things. I’m asking, how does this work? How is this put together? Why does it work like this? Is there some way to make this better? Where does this come from? Can I fix this? What can I do to change this? And if I’m asking these questions after fixing one little ole sink, what kind of questions would our kids start to ask themselves when they have a taste of a something similar?

And if I see that I have the power to question, to take things apart, to get messy, to put things back together in a way that makes them better — and to clean up the mess, too — then I see that I can be powerful in other ways, too. And when “powerful people” want to tell me that they’re right and I should fall in line, I can stand in the knowledge of my own power and push back. I know that I don’t have to avoid taking things apart or to making a mess. I know now that I have the power to fix it. And I want the same confident stance for my students and for the future adults of our planet.

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An assortment of inherited and newly purchased tools: vise grip, wrench, pliers.

There is beauty and power in being real, in being here  and doing things that are visible and tangible, things that concretely alter and improve the landscape of our lives. So let’s take things apart — from the humblest kitchen sink to the way we view ourselves and our places in the world. Let’s get messy and work on it together.

On Moving

I have been on a hiatus, not completely by choice but definitely out of necessity. My partner and I moved at the beginning of the month; today marks three weeks. And it wasn’t just any move, we bought a building, inherited two lovely tenants, and are now the masters of our domain in Bridgeport, one neighborhood south of where we used to live in Pilsen (although my wife continuously reminds me that — according to her — we didn’t really live in Pilsen because we were too far east).  Either way, we moved and it was a big deal. Only it took me a while to see that.

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There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort. ~Jane Austen

Funny how survival — or maybe stress and self-preservation instincts — work. I was so busy for weeks, maybe more than a month, thinking and planning and anticipating and packing and overall feeling upended that I didn’t allow the realness, the bigness, of our move sink in until now. Yes, I was sad to move — our old apartment was the place where we became newlyweds and went through a lot — and yes, I was excited to open up a new chapter in our lives, but I didn’t have time to sit and let it sink in, let it settle in my bones and have it really permeate and feel real until now. Now that we’re on Thanksgiving break and I have time to sit and just be, to look out the windows and walk through the rooms and feel the doorknobs in my hands and hang my coat in the closet and wipe down the counters, do all those tiny mundane things that hardly register as anything, I’ve gotten it. We’ve moved. I moved. And now I’m here. And I love it.

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The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

It’s such a pleasure to know that this small corner of the world is mine, is ours, and that we’ll be able to make plans and see them come true. And this will be its own form of magic — coming home.