Carolina on My Mind

Realizations about life, personal and professional


December 2012

Thank You 2012

Dear 2012,

Thank you for the many blessings you have bestowed upon me this year including some very difficult struggles, some new friendships, and some new perspectives on life that are helping me better embrace the person within my soul.

Being able to look back on our time together, I can see with greater clarity the bigger picture behind some of your antics. You must have known I needed affirmation about my purpose in life; thank you for allowing me to embrace my passion for children in poverty in a new and different way; to feel understand that impact comes in many different ways.

You are so wise too, 2012. You saw my struggle with the split-personality life I was leading as a school leader. You saw that I had a desire to be more true to me and who I am inside. Thank you for putting me in a place where I am able to walk into work each day with a smile, utilize creativity to a new level to help children, and to have relationships that are not ripe with conflict, backbiting, and pain. I am so much happier as a professional today.

Thank you too for allowing events to transpire over the course of the year that allowed me to embrace old and new friendships with the passion I do many other things in life. You have allowed me to know and understand friendship in a different level and to seek opportunities to be the friend I want to be to others. I know I still have a way to go on this one, but am thankful for the handful of people you have infused and pushed into my life in a much deeper level. Their various impacts are making me so very happy with both the internal and external me.

But 2012, as you talk to 2013, will you please ask her to continue to help me work through those inner demons? Yeah, those. The newfound strength and purpose you have shown me has helped me begin to open those doors and reflect on the question “will I regret it…” if I do, or don’t act in a particular way to those demons. It is not easy to look in those windows…they are a source of pain and angst. They will require more of me than anything this year…

And, please also ask her to continue to help me continue on this life journey of self-examination and realization. Please ask her to keep the positive influences coming and to infuse rich experiences into my life during her reign…ask her to help me to continue to find and embrace that “inner goddess” who is able to fully embrace life.

2012, thank you for all you have offered. I’m sad to see you go but am excited to see what 2013 will bring.

Hopes and Dreams

Yesterday the question was posed to me, “What are your hopes and dreams for 2013?”  I thought all day about the question, telling my friend I would need time to respond to the inquiry.  I ended up sharing a plethora of overarching concepts of peace, joy, love, and healing.  But, somehow, even as true as the statements were, I felt the need to further push myself to answer this question….so will work to break down the ambiguity into more concrete answers in a quest to continue to support my growth and journey…

1.  Resolve life conflicts:  I’m not really sure why, but I stay in a state of perpetual internal conflict about who I am, especially when it comes to the balance of life.  I’ve worked hard to be where I am professionally, but my greatest life conflict is, at what price?  Am I able to be and to give what those around me most need?  Do my children understand the depth of my love for them?  Are their cups filled with what they need to be good decision makers, givers in the world, and to love those around them without judgement?  Am I doing my job as a parent to the best of my ability when I combine it with my desire and efforts to achieve professionally?  Of all of my life conflicts, this is the one that wakes me up in the night…have I, am I, being the mother my children deserve?

2. Embrace life:  Stop over thinking everything.  Learn to embrace all that life sends your way.  End the need to control every moment of every day.  Let life happen and absorb it into my soul.  

3.  Let go of pain:  There is a lot here…a lifetime of struggles, heartbreak, and regret.  I’m sure everyone has their share of these, but having the inner strength to overcome and make conscious decisions to remedy that which causes me pain is probably where making my hopes and dreams reality comes to a screeching halt.  Taking the actions necessary to let go of pain will involve making decisions that will take courage to face fears, courage to act when there is an unknown outcome, and courage to forgive in a very deep way.  I’m thinking this one may be on the list for several years to come…

4.  Have a sense of peace:  So much of my life has been about fighting not only to survive my external world, but about trying to be the best at everything; the best Mom, the best teacher, the best principal, the best friend…and feeling as if I fall short with them all.  Working to have a sense of peace in my life will mean accepting that I give the very best I can every day and never looking back or feeling regret for the way events transpired; To know that I did the best I could with where I am on my life’s journey.

It would be so much easier to be able to say my hopes and dreams were “things”.  My hopes and dreams for 2013 are rooted in a desire to have rich life experiences and to create memories that will last a lifetime.  I suppose if we are going to dream, we might as well dream big….

Sits with Conflict

“I had never really known who John Dunbar was. Perhaps because the name itself had no meaning. But as I heard my Sioux name being called over and over, I knew for the first time who I really was.” -Dances With Wolves

Perhaps we all seek to know that inner self to a level that John Dunbar was able to find and articulate.  Moreover, why do we stray from the internal self rather than embrace the metaphorical Sioux name?  Today, I sit with conflict within….working to find my Dances with Wolves.  Thank you, John Dunbar.  Once again I am reminded of the importance of my quest to find, and be true to, my inner self.

As said by Kicking Bird, “I was just thinking that of all the trails in this life there is one that matters most. It is the trail of a true human being.”  If tonight my time on this Earth shall end, I can say it is my sincere desire that the ones who know me best would say I was on the trail, the trail of being a true human being.

In Pursuit of Perfection

A blog I read yesterday talked of the importance of appreciating the steps on the journey rather than focusing on the destination.  This morning, I woke to the thought that the need for appreciating the journey is exactly what has brought me to this moment in my life; this quest to define my inner self.  However, what happens when the road you’ve traveled has been cobbled with your ever-present pursuit for perfection?

Growing up, I learned early that hard work in school could possibly be my ticket to a better life.  I studied hard, for long hours, and was a member, if not president, of every club I could possibly find time for;  I was a cheerleader and an honor roll student in the highest level classes.  I had the “perfect” experiences, or I hoped, for the University of Life to swoop down on me and carry me away.  Only that didn’t quite happen.  In my pursuit for perfection, I didn’t realize that factors like race and gender would matter; that my dream could slip right through my fingers based on factors over which I had absolutely no control.

I ended up going to my local college on a Fellowship.  Again, working hard, I graduated in 4 years; a feat that alluded many of my friends.  My pursuit of perfection became building that resume that would make me irresistable to my future employer…I had to be the “perfect” teacher.  But, upon graduation, my local district WASN’T knocking down my door to offer me a job; the market was saturated and experience mattered.  I was fortuante to find a home in a neighboring district for a year before returning to my home district.

So, education-check, career-check.  My pursuit of perfection became to have the “perfect” nuclear family.  Marrying immediately after college graduation, the canvas of THIS picture began to take color.  Two children, three more degrees, a house that didn’t once have wheels, and a swingset in the back yard…one would think I had acheived “perfection”.

Only that’s today…and I am able to reflect back on the pursuit of perfection to realize that of those events, there are only two things I would call “perfect”.  My children.  The rest of the journey brought me to and helped me define who I am today…but almost 40 years later, I’m still in pursuit of perfection.  Now though, perfection has to be defined by forces that are not external, that are not materialistic, that are not achievements.

Perfection is defined by being able to stop and realize that, our journey will always be the pursuit.  It will be the experiences shared with those around you.  It is sharing your time and space with people who feed your soul.  It is surrounding yourself with people you want to be by your side on your journey; who appreciate and can share in the beauty of the experiences on the journey.  It is knowing that the pursuit of perfection is neverending…and there will be cracks and crevices on that path of life and figuring out how to navigate around them to best enjoy the journey.

Judge and Jury…The Quandary of Clemency

As I read the paper this morning, I found myself to be unexpectedly enraged by an article about several people requesting clemency from our exiting Governor.  Charges range from murder to involuntary manslaughter, to drug trafficking.  Portrayed is a picture of victims, wasting away in jail, having “done their time” or being unjustly punished for their transgressions.

Having always worked to understand the idiosyncrasies of law, especially the concept of being judged by a jury of your peers, I took a moment to better understand clemency.  From what I gather, being granted clemency grants a convicted criminal a shortened stay in prison.  There must be someone on the “outside” advocating for their release, and the subject of clemency is often filled with a high degree of emotional turmoil between the accused and victims.

But my quandary is this, Governor Purdue, with all due respect, isn’t an attorney.  She wasn’t involved in the trials and sentencing of these individuals.  She is a politician. She had degrees in history, community college administration, and educational administration.  Yet, we have empowered her to make decisions based on plea letters and petitions.  How is this rational?  How will we, in the 21st century, define what is fair and just if there will always be a loophole to freedom?

I suppose I relate this most in my world to NCLB sanctions.  Having most recently served a school in one of the most affluent areas of my hometown that became an “opt-out” school for students in low-performing schools within our district, I was often ridiculed, and eventually replaced, for my insistence on the right for all children to receive a quality education.  I was able to “look the part” of the principal in the silver-spoon community,  but acted with the soul of that “trailer park trash” insisting that the needs of ALL children be met.  Having been that child who rode past the million dollar mansions, picking out which would be mine one day, I knew first hand the feelings the children entered the building with each day.  They no more wanted to enter an environment where they were outcasts than did the elitist want them there.  All they wanted was to come to school, glean the knowledge of the day at best, in hopes of a better tomorrow.

Clemency, when applied to education, applies twofold. Parents, who don’t want their kids with “those children” are able to offer them a shorter “sentence” by placing them in the local private or charter schools with others who look more like them and aren’t faced with the same challenges and “those bussed in kids”.   These parents have access, affluence, and influence to understand the system and to make changes they deem appropriate for their children…they are able to write their own “letters to the governor.”  However, to the parent of a child in a failing school, the criminal represented by the public defender, the choice to seek a better opportunity, a better performing school, is their clemency; possibly their proverbial “golden ticket” for their child to have a better life than what they have had.

Without reform in education, we too are allowing politicians to make decisions that perpetuate the need for clemency in our schools.  We allow poor teachers to continue to serve the children in low-performing schools rather than insist on their resignation or termination.  We allow substandard instruction and lowering of the bar practices to be acceptable for those who don’t understand or aren’t able to articulate their discontent with the system and its expectations for their child’s success.  Instead of looking at the “system” to seek reform, we continue to provide additional ways for these families to seek educational clemency in hopes that the message of “equal access” for all will come through.  It’s time not to HOPE that all children are provided a quality education, but to INSIST on it.  We need to be the advocates for the elimination of the need for that clemency in education.

The Space-Time Continuum

Captain’s log: 12.22.12 06:47 hours.

The threat of the end of the world has once again come and passed.  I’m very thankful; I get to enjoy another day on this soul-searching journey towards 40.  The concepts of space, time, and distance have been a part of my thought process lately in a much broader sense than the moon and stars, hands on a clock, and miles on a treadmill or the car to work.

The three are, in fact, very intertwined and engrained in how I perceive life.  I believe there are three ways for me to conceptualize these terms within “space” beyond the scientific definition which encompasses all that is what I see when I look to the sky.  Space, as it relates to our daily lives can be emotional space, physical space, and/or ideological space.

Emotional space:  Emotional space is very much inclusive of time and distance.  Emotional space is the concept which allows us to feel and perceive our space from another in terms of how distant or intimate the moment or interaction may seem.  Where intimacy can be communicated through a passing glance, a meaningful gesture, a touch, or a linguistic exchange across hundreds of miles.  Conversely, distance is communicated in the very same way.  The routine passing of two souls, the lack of thoughtfulness or consideration to another, the absence of touch, or simple silence.  Certainly intimacy is the more desirable of the two in the space-time continuum, but distance allows those feelings of intimacy to become more crystalized and have a greater impact on our “space”.

Physical space:  Defining physical space involves a departure from miles and time.  It is the connection felt inside based on the emotional space one shares with another.  The warmth that covers you when you watch your child sleep, the butterflies you feel when that gentle touch means so much more, the electricity you feel when a few words say so much.  But it is also that emptiness when life becomes routine and there is an absence of attention to the emotional space in which we live.  It is the pain felt when you have to take that call, just because it is the right thing to do, yet know there are no words to remedy time gone by.  Emotional space can make our physical space feel like “The Green Mile” or “the yellow brick road”.

Then finally, ideological space.  Utopia.  This is the space within our hearts and minds where we define perfection.  Time alone watching the waves roll in on the beach, just you, your thoughts, the sand, and surf; time spent watching the twinkling eyes of a child as they read a book for the very first time; closing your eyes to imagine yourself sharing space with another in a way that makes you both happy.

Unfortunately, with my definitions, your space, and perceptions therein, can change from close to distant in a moment and leave you in a continuous state of flux  But it is a much more exciting way to consider the space-time continuum than that which James T. Kirk helped us to understand.  Best wishes for a day filled with deposits into your emotional and physical spaces and the joys they will bring to your life.

Which are you?

Yesterday I was able to chat with a friend about being a “stuff” person or an “experience” person.  The conversation made me pause to reflect on which type of person I was and found my thoughts to be an intersection of so many phases of my life.

I’m not sure I could say that I’m exclusively either/or.  Having a childhood filled with cross-town busing to and from school and latch key kid responsibilities to watch over my younger sister, “stuff” were those things on Saturday morning commercials that my “rich” friends received for birthdays and Christmas, those friends that lived in brick houses with a green front yard and a swing set in the back…not the friends who shared an address with a lot number attached.  “Stuff” was intangible. Therefore I have a lifetime of memories; “experiences” from which I am able to paint the picture of who I am today; being knee deep in red mud for so long my legs were stained, swinging on a makeshift swing across the creek, playing hide and seek with my friends across the trailer park, and, as I grew older, the meetings with just a few of us at the clubhouse at dusk for those middle school adventures like spin the bottle.

I fast forward today and think about “stuff” vs. “experience”…I have “stuff”.  I have worked hard in life to create a future for my children that they are well-provided for and honestly, want for nothing.  They are spoiled rotten yet have values that allow me to be proud of them because of the way they are able to demonstrate respect to and for people and things.

I have a beautiful home, a nice car, and can shop, as I want for the most part.  But, when I think about what I cherish most about my life, it is the “experiences” that make me smile.  It’s having my son climb in my bed each morning to kiss me and say “good morning Mommy”.  It’s my daughter’s stumbling into my bathroom as I’m dressing for work each day, her hair all awry, to my arms for a hug to start her day.  I think about what I share with the world via social media…my Instagram pics are symbolic of my love for my experiences, not of my things.  My Facebook posts speak of the witty remarks from my 8 year old and the pre-teen antics of my 11 year old…as well as of the times I cherish with my dear friends.

Therefore, I land here…”stuff” is nice, and I enjoy that my years of effort and good choices has provided me with the ability to have “stuff”.  But when I think of what I cherish most in life, it is the rich experiences I have had that I embrace most.  My “bucket list” doesn’t contain “stuff”; it is filled with experiences to come.

I’m thankful to be able to fully embrace my experiences and not regret that emotion will often overwhelm me as I make my way through them.  For the emotion means I’m feeling and absorbing everything that moment has to offer.


The Heart of the Matter

This morning, after being briefed on the latest information regarding the CT tragedy from my local news, I dropped my son off to school.  My normally routine wave to the principal today became a moment of concern for a bigger picture.  Today, standing next to him, was a police officer.

I’m sure the officer was there to instill a sense of security in the school and its procedures.  However, after 10 years as a school administrator, I believe we are missing the heart of the matter.

Once I dropped him off, he went to his classroom where he will spend more of his waking hours with Mrs. T than his father, his sister, or with me.  I would say with confidence that I am one of the blessed.  I trust her implicitly with him.  I know she will care for his needs not only as a student, but also as a child.  Unfortunately, not everyone is as fortunate.  There are teachers out there, in every school, who don’t embrace the totality of being a teacher.

After recently watching Waiting for Superman I became enraged.  We KNOW what the problem is in education.  Why are we not working to fix it???

Every child and parent deserves to trust that the room they enter each day is one with a highly-qualified, highly-motivated individual concerned about the future of the nation.  But, as a nation education as a profession has been so devalued, we accept mediocrity rather than insist on the best. At what point will we insist on systemic change that allows only the best for all children?  How are those children in THOSE classrooms where poor teachers are reading the paper or emotionally demeaning students going to cope with the problems and issues they will face as 21st century adults?  How will they make critical decisions if they haven’t been taught to think?

The walls of bureaucracy must come down.  Leaders in education have to be empowered to select and retain only the best; what they would want for their own children.  Unions, I understand your cause, I just hope you understand you are protecting those who are hurting YOUR future too.

The heart of the matter is, until we look to systemic reform, there will be children entering society ill-prepared to be productive citizens.  We have got to stop dancing around this issue and begin to look critically at the future we are forming with our decisions today.

And so it begins…

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of spending time with a group of educators from around the nation.  The skills and knowledge they brought to the table were simply impressive and awe-inspiring.  I thought to myself many times during those few days, “How in the world am I a part of this group??”  There were educators who had won National Awards, there were Superintendents, there were published authors, and then there was me; a mom, 10 year school principal turned central office cog, an individual who’s defining characteristics can be described as opinionated, steadfast, and passionate.

Since that time I have also done THE countdown and realized that my 40th birthday is less than 100 days away.  It has been a time filled with a great deal of soul-searching; searching to define who I am and if it matches who I truly want to be; a role model to my children and a soul with inner satisfaction derived from taking advantage of opportunities that enrich my heart and mind.  This blog is the result of that searching.

I have been fortunate enough, both through hard work and luck, to obtain a great deal of education.  I love to learn.  Since I finished my doctorate several years ago, a lifetime personal goal realized much earlier than I had ever dreamed possible, I have lived in a rather static state when it comes to learning.  My focus has been being a good mother, doing well in my career, and trying to be a good wife…all while placing personal wants and needs on the back burner for not wanting to be called selfish.

My realizations begin with the fact that we CAN’T put ourselves on the back burner…we have to be good for ourselves before we can be good for anyone else.  And so it begins…my newest venture, blogging.

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