To do or not to do…

Back in December of last year I chose a word for the year ahead, like many do. My word for 2012 was “realize”. And I nailed it, but in a completely different way than I intended.

What I meant by “realize” was to stop doing so much thinking and start acting. What happened was that I thought. I thought a lot. Sure, I got some things done. I started this blog, for example, a place to think out loud. And after Matrilumina in August, something in me took a right turn, and I just needed to stop putting so much pressure on myself to Do. I needed to just sit. And be.

It took a while for me to understand that, of course. For months and months I was just frustrated with myself that I wasn’t getting things done. I would sign up for an e-course and would kinda just sit and listen to what everyone else’s experience was rather than participating myself. On facebook I would read important, meaningful conversations happening in my circles, and not comment at all. Hanging back. I didn’t create the business of my dreams. And I got pretty upset with myself for all that.

And then I realized that I am a do-er. I do, do, and do all day, every day. My husband and I joke about our shared online calendar being like a game of Tetris. We fill open slots with the appropriate shaped activities as quickly as we can. I am a mom to a toddler, I cook and I love it, I clean, I plan playdates, I work, I am becoming a yoga teacher, I knit, I create, I connect, I compost, etc. etc. What I am not very comfortable with is the not-doing. And this year was about realizing how equally important the not-doing can be. Slow down. Pay attention. Sit and listen.

I needed to pull back and rest to get back in touch with myself, to identify what is really important to me, and learn how to select to do those things, instead of trying to Do everything.

I am still working on my word for next year. I am letting it come as it comes, Letting This Happen, Too. I’ll let you know when it lands.

In the meantime, I wish you all inner peace and contentment all throughout the New Year. ')}

Together, aaron and jon recently wiki page reference created the flippedclassroom



You may have noticed that I like to be a bit prosaic in my storytelling. I greatly enjoy leaving a lot of space in my writing for interpretation. Space for connecting my story to yours. But there comes a time in a blog’s life where the facts need to come out just as they are. It’s the background. The where-I’m-coming-from. The who-are-you-anyway.

So, yeah. Let me tell you my story of our trip to Santorini, Greece.

I was working hard. I was a mid-level manager at a fast-paced high-tech company taking on every bit of responsibility I could get my little hands on, building new teams, taking care of my people. I love being a manager. It is something that I am cut out for and it uses every bit of who I am. I had just completed my MBA which I received from Boston University’s evening program. After spending every moment that I wasn’t working, sleeping, or eating (or buying a house, or getting married) either at school or doing schoolwork for 3.5 years, I had decided to wrap it up quickly by taking two classes during the shortened first summer session. That means I attended 3 hours of class 4 nights a week after work for 6.5 weeks, and met with classmates for team oriented work either before or after class or on Friday nights or weekends, and was on the board of the Women’s MBA Association, and in Network Impact, and did my homework anywhere I could squeeze it…lunch break, on the T (Boston’s subway), in the wee hours of the morning. I didn’t think this was odd. Maybe you don’t either. Sometimes in life, this is just what you do for what you love. Oh. But wait. Did I love it? Were these My passions?


I sure was happy to be finished, but what I didn’t realize was that I was heading over the top of the last hill on the roller coaster not to the grand finale of excitement and release and feeling of accomplishment that I was expecting, rather complete, total, and utter burnout. A nice cocktail when mixed with a lifelong battle with anxiety. Somebody shoulda stuck a fork in me, because I.was.done.

Of course I didn’t realize this right away. As celebration for all of my hard work, and just because we could, my husband and I took a flight to Greece for vacation almost immediately upon completion of my last final.

Let me pause the story to also let you know that at the time I was terrified of flying. I mean like, no sleep for days beforehand, knots in my stomach for weeks, break out in rashes, terr.i.fied. I held on to the armrest so hard for the 9 hour flight to Greece that I irritated the bursa sac in my elbow and it puffed up like a softball for the first 4 days of our trip. Because if you exert the right kind of upward force on the armrest you can actually keep an otherwise faltering airplane in the air (dontcha know).

Anyway, we get to Greece and have quite a lovely time traveling mostly around the Peloponnese with my Mother-in-law who lived there at the time. It was really an amazing trip. We rented a car, got off the beaten path, and (thanks to my MIL’s fluency in Greek) stayed in little villages in rented rooms over the local tavernas. Fantastic. At the end of the trip my husband and I had scheduled 3 days to ourselves on the incredibly beautiful island of Santorini.


If you aren’t familiar, Santorini is the place pictured on every tourist advertisement beckoning you to Greece. It is the one with all the white buildings with blue, domed roofs hanging off the cliff edges over the sea. Some people think it may have been the infamous “Atlantis“, in fact, before it blew up 3600 years ago. You see, the beautiful crescent-shaped island of Santorini is actually the caldera of an active volcano. Of course it is a perfectly safe and beautiful place to visit. Really there is very little chance that the volcano will erupt while you are visiting. But try telling my poor, exhausted, fully-tilted brain that. There was just no doing it. No matter how many glasses of rosé I drank while playing backgammon and watching some of the world’s most amazing sunsets, no matter how much horrible television I tried to distract myself with in the middle of the night when I could not get myself to sleep, no matter how many walks on the black sand beaches my husband I took, I could not think of anything but that island blowing up. I wanted so badly to enjoy it. It was our romantic getaway after so much work! How many people on this Earth get the opportunity to visit such a place? It was beautiful, sunny, once in a lifetime. And yet, the last night we were there I was up the entire night, curled up in the corner of the couch, shaking like a leaf and expecting any moment to be my last. Not really wanting to get on an airplane either, but just wanting the whole thing to be over. Yep, like I said. Done.

So. This is where I have been. There is more…oh, so much more. This wasn’t even the lowest of the low. But it is when I started to think maybe I should do something about how I was living my life. About how my story was unraveling. ')}

Sams and bergmann provide an excellent introduction to buy an essay online cheap what the flipped classroom is, why it works, and how they do it


Let this happen.

In a few days I leave on a journey. I am packing 2 weeks worth of stuff, leaving my itty bitty, 15 month old little monkey and my amazing husband for 6 days to attend this gathering.

I am anxious and excited. I will be at my edge the entire time. But that is where we learn the most, isn’t it? At our edge. At the cliffside as we take our next leap.

Hubby and Monkey will be joining me on Friday in San Francisco. There we’ll have a visit with NanaLu and Papa (coming down from Washington). Then we’ll travel down by car to visit my best friend in San Diego. What adventures await?

I love to travel and these few days before it all begins are full of heightened emotions, anticipation. I am good at this mode. Pressure to do things right, quickly, every “t” crossed every “i” dotted. Oh but how it can ramp up my anxiety astronomically. In fact, on a few “vacations” by the time I got there I was so stressed out someone would have to peel me off the ceiling to go down to the pool. I could barely enjoy a moment. Remind me to tell you about our trip to Santorini sometime.

Me in Santorini - don't let the smile fool you

Today, I am taking each moment as it comes. When I am sad about leaving my baby boy, I cry. When I am nervous about flying (an old phobia of mine) I look around and remember where I am this second. When the logistics become overwhelming, I take a deep breath and think about how everything will be just fine. I will get there. I will have clean underwear.

A friend of mine reminded me recently that anxiety can come from dwelling in the future. Troubling over what is to come. It is my old way. This is my new mantra: Let This Happen.


Students can even check over there work ahead when they know they will be losing class time


Purple is a transformative color.

I have a purple streak in my hair.

The first time I had it done I was inspired by my mother-in-love who had gotten a small bit of color in her hair at the beginning of the new year in 2010. When I saw it in person, fading into a little rainbow streak at the top of head, I knew I had to do this for myself. So I marched over to their local hair salon, with a crocus in my hand matching the exact color that I wanted, and had the stylist put a big, fat purple streak from the top of my head to my shoulder on my right side. I had never done anything so outwardly controversial in my life (seriously). And it was positively freeing. I remember walking back to my in-laws house in Tacoma with tears of joy in my eyes and I am just starting to understand why I was so overcome.

Just the other day I was at an event. The kind of solemn celebratory event where you are surrounded by the hosts’ family and elders and you are the couple of close friends feeling slightly guilty about having a beer or two in the shade (hm, maybe that guilt part is just me). One of these elders approached me toward the end of the day and said “I am sorry for staring, but I have to ask, why the purple?”

I am actually not asked “why?” all that often and so I stumbled for a bit and then said something along the lines of feeling like showing some color and being rebellious and that it was less permanent than a tattoo. The woman’s husband piped up then. He said “I was just on the shore and got a temporary tattoo.” and then he looked me in the eye and said “Ya know, purple is a transformative color.” I mean, this stranger, this gentleman, he just totally got it. I hadn’t even really gotten it myself.

When I got my first purple streak some part of me was aching, screaming, clawing to be seen. Really, actually seen. I had been doing some difficult work behind closed doors. I had been talking to a therapist and working through my anxiety issues, I had been uncovering my inner-artist, I had been picking apart those cracking walls brick by brick. It was time to wear my transformation on my sleeve, out loud.

Whereas I had gotten really good at fading into the background (a known skill of Fox, my animal totem) and camouflaging myself in my surroundings, people were now noticing me. And I was ready for it. Nowadays I very rarely feel like people are making judgements about me because of the color in my hair, and when I do most of the time it is kind of exciting. Am I edgy? Well, yeah I guess I am. I’m a wild, edgy, free, currently transforming mama. And I am cool with everyone knowing it.



Moreover, the time that is freed up in class can now be devoted more directly to each student as he or she needs it


Cracking through.

Something shifted in me after that first Squam experience, yes. Something hard and cold and opaque fell away from my heart. That doesn’t mean that everything fell into place though. It still hasn’t a full two years later. All I could really see was that I wasn’t allowing myself to shine. I was hiding. And I was really, really good at it.

This part of me was trying to bust out for a while. It is what attracted me to Squam in the first place, and it got me to fill out the forms, and mail them. However, when the walls I had built up over so much time started cracking, a new me didn’t just bust right through it smiling and dancing and taking over the world. It has taken much work to unravel what I had buried so deeply. Most of the time I feel like I am still on the first step. It is the hardest. Honoring myself. Not a pretty picture of myself like I had been practicing. Not a new being perfectly aligned with my wants and needs. My self. As I stand here today. Get ready, world, to meet the real me.

Me Today


The conversation can move beyond issues like, is my child behaving in class to a more meaningful discussion about learning


What is this I’ve landed in?

Goodness. And I mean that in every sense of the word.

I spent Wednesday through Sunday in the woods, by the lake, at Squam Art Workshops and I have so much to tell you. It will happen in due time. First I’ve got to get the pictures off of my camera. I took about a thousand of them in the joyful goddess Amy Gretchen’s class alone. On top of that, I need to let some things settle before my mind can find the words to put to it.


Right now I am focused on giving myself a gentle landing back into everyday life. In the past I haven’t been very good at it. I have put a lot of pressure on myself to keep up with everything I learned, establish those new relationships, read and absorb every attendee’s blog post/facebook update/flickr feed so I can relive the experience again and again, explain every revelation to my family and friends, all that and unpack, do the laundry, care for the little and my partner and the house, return to my desk job…last Fall in particular, I don’t mind admitting, I completely crashed and burned in re-entry. Skipping off the atmosphere between two very different lives. Way to undo all the good of a retreat, hotpants.


This year I am handling it much better. My life at Squam and my life at home are becoming less different, for one. But also, instead of feeling like I have an outstanding balance due to my daily life and the people in it, I am considering that my budget is balanced. I am taking it easy and squeezing every last bit of good out of it. Sure, my desk-job is super busy, in a way that could be overwhelming if I let it, but I’m taking each minute as I can (and probably not surprisingly it is all getting done). I am enjoying the quiet company of my family. The laundry will be cleaned. The stories and the pictures will be there when I am ready. ')}

There are many reasons why a student may be struggling, and focusing on these areas in a dialogue with the parent can be far more productive than a discussion of why their child won’t do their homework or why they won’t sit still in class


The Beginning – Squam Art Workshops

Nervous. Skin-crawling, palm-sweating, heart-pounding anxiety. That is how I felt when I brought my registration form, sealed in its envelope, to the post office in February of 2010 to sign up for the Spring Session of Squam Art Workshops – my first retreat ever. That is how I felt every time I revisited the website and the confirmation letter – checking and double-checking my classes, my roommate, the location of my cottage. That is how I felt when, all by myself, I hopped in the car of a stranger (a welcoming and very calming Squam veteran) to drive up to New Hampshire that first day. My heart was in my throat when I reached the door. And then. This woman. She looked into my eyes, and she hugged me, like we had been long lost friends. I thought…”hmmm she must think I am someone else”. But no. It was just Jen being Jen. Squam being Squam. Like a lighting bolt of positively charged energy. Openness, kindness, genuine curiosity, pure honesty. I was delivered so much of those things in that one look, in that one hug, that old hanger-oner of a friend called anxiety all but disappeared. Not only that, but I was oozing those same feelings to everyone I met over the next 5 days. And then I met the creator, originator, goddess of Squam, Elizabeth. She was so present, and so welcoming, and humble, and spot-on in her knowing what a little someone like me might need. And then I met another first timer, and someone else, and someone else and all of a sudden I was just exactly where I was supposed to be.


That first Squam came to be all about bravery for me. For many, it seems. Bravery as I let “the real me” emerge without hesitation – as I began my first attempt at hand-embroidery – as I opened up with my classmates about what their creations meant to me.  It was there as I met the 9 women in my cabin and we began to share meals, and stories, bits of ourselves and our dreams, until we were just like sisters. Most poignantly I wound up my courage as I divulged my long-standing relationship with anxiety in Jen Lee’s storytelling class. A story about how I had let fear stop me from camping in the woods with friends, and I was determined not to let it stop me again.


Last Spring I couldn’t attend because it was too close to the due date of my first child. But my husband and my 4 week old and I managed to get ourselves up to Squam for the Art Fair. The three of us visited with many of those same Sassy Sisters I had met the year prior, and a few new friends to boot. Just like family, we picked right back up where we left off. Max slept better than he had in his entire 4 weeks of life as he was passed from sister to sister. And in the end, those amazing women presented us with a quilt. Each of them handmade a square and one of them assembled and finished it off. Each square was made with care and love. One square depicted a sketch of Squam Lake, one an image from the story I told in Jen Lee’s class. In the center, my name along with my partner’s surrounds a tree with a nested egg. And, a late addition I’m told, a panel with a scene from Where the Wild Things Are depicting my son’s namesake as he bravely stomps into the woods.

I am thinking about all of this as I begin to pack myself up for this year’s Spring session that starts in just one week – as I start this blog and this journey that would have always remained an idea if not for Squam. Just beginning the preparations fills me with excitement, and anticipation – and courage. Just the beginning.

quilt ')}

Just yesterday morning, there was an article in usa today discussing how many of today’s students don’t feel particularly challenged by their check the website school work