For my teacher friends…

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The funny thing is that my colleague, Angela, and I have been leading professional workshops for several years now. We are a bomb team. We’ve dabbled in working with new teachers at universities, but mostly on a volunteer basis to take a pulse on whether we were wanted or not. Last year we decided, “NO MORE FREE LABOR!” It’s just not feasible when we already have so many other commitments in our lives.

(for the 99% of you who aren’t teachers, you can tune out now…) 

This June, we are teaching a legit class for 3.0 graduate credits for the BARGAIN price of $165. How is the price so low?! you might ask. Well, we worked out a deal through our school district and Portland State University that allows hardworking teachers a high quality class for a cut rate. It’s like getting a Lexus for the price of a Hyundai. Ching!

Have I piqued your interest? 

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Let me know if you’re interested. We’ve already started registering and space is limited!

The 10,000 Hour Rule and 9 Ways to Not Screw Up Your Middle Schooler

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There are very few things I claim to be an expert on. Several years ago, Thor started a podcast and was pushing me to start my own. The conversation went like this:

Me: “What would I even do a podcast on??”

Thor: “It’s like whatever you’re an amateur expert in. What do you consider yourself an expert on?”

Me: (long, thoughtful pause) “The Young and the Restless.”

And so my friend, Amanda, and I began a podcast dedicated to Y&R (mostly as a joke) and here we are five (?) years later, with over 90,000 downloads. Still blows our minds! 

But seriously, what else would I consider myself an expert on? I was ruminating on this thought the other day, and I thought, “Well, I spend all day with middle schoolers…” and I did the math. Have you heard of the 10,000 hour rule? Basically the idea is that you can have talent in something, but you must truly invest your time to be an expert…thus 10,000 hours is the baseline for expertise. (I can’t say I’ve watched 10,000 hours of Y&R, but I can tell you I literally haven’t missed an episode since the mid 90s).

I started doing the math on what I might have contributed 10,000 hours to in my life. My problem is that I crave change and variety, and I’m not addictive or obsessive about most things (except cheese). What were my results? I’ve spent over 11,000 hours teaching middle schoolers (grades 6-8). That’s right, I’m an expert on the worst years of most peoples’ lives.

So I’m going to digress from my “list” for a moment.

All of us spent a few years being an adolescent, and some parents suffer through having an adolescent, but day-in and day-out I am exposed to the mercurial emotions and pungent body odor of adolescents. The funny thing is, I’ve discovered that most kids who struggle  (academically, socially, hygienically…) in middle school are struggling for one specific reason: their parents.

That’s right: you are screwing up your kid. You are committing their social suicide. All day my Facebook feed is inundated with new moms posting pictures of their messy, drooling newborns and asking questions about their toddler’s body functions. But you don’t see people posting pictures of their teen’s terrible acne or disaster of a locker or bad grade on a terribly easy assignment. What’s the deal?

I’m not a mom. In fact, I never intend to be a mom. But according the 10,000 hour rule, I am an expert on the ages 10 – 14. And after a weekend of posting grades for the term and replying to anxiety-ridden parent emails, I’m going to tell you how to make your kid successful in middle school. 

Top 9 Ways to Not Screw Up Your Middle Schooler

1. Make them pack their own lunch. Not only is it a good skill for them to learn how to plan and organize their own meals, they also suffer legitimate and immediate consequences for not planning ahead of time. This does not mean give them lunch money. This means they should help pick out the things they need at the grocery store and then make grown-up choices about their eating habits. (If packing their lunch is your special moment and you just can’t give it up, then do it only on Fridays or something.)

2. Don’t email their teacher about an assignment they didn’t turn in. This is so lame! By 6th grade, kids need to take responsibility! What are you teaching them when you act like their assistant?! Nothing good, I’ll tell you that. 

3. Let them pick out their own clothes, but facilitate some guidance. We are old and kids pretty much all look the same to us. But to each other, they are all very different, and clothing is the basis for figuring out their identity. If you are picking out your middle schooler’s outfit, then you need to cut the cord. That being said, if your kid is going to school with a pot leaf crop top, you need to reign that cord in. See the balance? Kids are constantly reevaluating the social tiers and while I’m not saying that you should buy their way into popularity, I am saying you should buy their way out of being a complete outcast. 

4. Buy them school supplies every month. Nothing sucks more than seeing a kid roll into class with his iPhone and brand new Nikes but not have a freaking pencil. Parents always go out and buy tons of supplies in September, and by December there’s nothing left. I watch kids suffer academically everyday because they are more concerned with trying to whittle an inch long piece of eraser into something they can use, than actively listening to the lesson. 

5. Make them play outside without rules. Sadly, I have kids who frequently don’t have the skills to just “play.” Either they have been plugged in so much of their life that they don’t know how to have fun without a gadget, or they’ve spent so much time in structured activities (soccer, basketball, camp) that they don’t know how to navigate social situations. This leads to getting left out, or fighting. 

6. Make them play on the computer. Did you know that computer coding is officially a required course in the U.K. starting next fall? If your kid doesn’t know how to really navigate their way through technology (and I mean do stuff you have no clue how to do), they are going to fall behind the curve for future job opportunities. Not only that, this is what kids talk endlessly about at school. They love to talk about and share the cool things they find online (and it’s way more innocent than what you are picturing).

7. Do not pull your kid out of school for a hair appointment.  Or a nail appointment. Or shopping of any kind. This happens all the time! This tells your kid that their appearance is more important than their academics. And they also miss whatever they should be learning. This one is shameful.

8. Don’t do their homework. Yes, people do this. It’s pretty absurd. Do I even have to explain? 

9. Make them shower! And wear deodorant! Kids are cruel, and if your boy or girl smells (and smellllll they do), they will get picked on. Often, the kid that smells bad doesn’t even notice, but the rest of the world does. Do us all a favor and force them to shower. A lesson on how to clean their face properly would also be good. And making sure they brush their teeth. Do that, too.

 

I know some other teachers will read this, so feel free to add your recommendations, as well! 

Day 11 of 30

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This morning I completed my 11th day of running in a row. I won’t lie: my body is tired. Surprisingly, mind my isn’t. I thought things would be the other way around.

To refresh, my rules of running 30 days in the row are that I must run at least one mile a day, and at least 10 miles a week. 

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It’s hard for me mentally to run only one mile. In my mind, it sounds kind of pathetic. But every Tuesday & Thursday I have a “bootcamp” class and on Saturdays I run stairs, so I don’t want to overdo things and kill myself. 

I’m not trying to clock a certain amount of miles or a certain speed…just running everyday. Several people have asked me why I’m doing this. To which I reply, “Well……….…….why not?” I’ve written before about a quote I once read from an ultra marathoner who said, “A day I’m too busy to run is a day I’m too busy.” I think I’m trying to prove that no matter what my personal or professional responsibilities are, I can squeeze in one measly mile. This was put to the test a few times earlier this week when I had several unexpected things happen after work. It wasn’t easy to get out there, but I forced myself.

That being said, my body hurts. My feet, my calves……………

And I’ve got 19 days to go.

14 – Join the FBI Citizen Academy. Check!

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After successfully completing the Sheriff’s Citizen Academy last fall (and loving it), joining the FBI Academy sounded like a logical next step.

First off, let’s clarify that I am not applying for jobs in law enforcement. Nor are these academies for employment in the sheriff’s or FBI’s offices. They are essentially classes meant for to educate and inform people in the community, as well as advocate for certain programs within their offices. You get to hear directly from people who work in different areas of law enforcement (i.e. forensics or K-9 unit), and you have to apply with a good reason for being included. 

While the Sheriff’s Academy was super fun (way more exciting than any college class I ever took), the quality of participants was a little questionable. I took the class with three of my educator colleagues, and I have to admit that we developed several nicknames for people in the class (Top That, Old Man Hair, Shorts Girl…) because they asked so many dumb questions, or shared so many inane stories. Thus I assumed the FBI Academy would also have similarly loose standards.

For the FBI Academy, I applied in January (I literally think my application was the first one submitted), and was shocked when I received an email stating that I was “wait listed”! Who, me?! Even worse, my friend, David, admittedly to me (with a nervous laugh) that he got accepted (ok, ok, he is more involved in a lot of community affairs so I agree he’s more qualified). I wanted to crawl into a hole. For eight months, I had been checking that same FBI Academy page over and over, waiting for the updated application. I’m the one who encouraged him to join these stupid academies. I deserved to get inOver Spring Break, I kept lamenting how I should have put more work into my application.

Knowing how bummed I was, David called the FBI Academy on my behalf (despite my protests). It’s too bad he doesn’t work on a used car lot because he is pretty much the most persuasive person I know. A few days later, I got a call that a spot had “suddenly” opened.

Last night was our first official night, and it occurred to me that I was totally delusional. No wonder I was wait listed! The 34 other people were legit community and business leaders. I’m talking CEOs and CIOs and Directors of Security and someone who runs an African Diamond Farming enterprise. I was like, “Hi, I’m a teacher…” We spent three hours learning about the history of the FBI and then focused on Domestic and International Terrorism.

We have to lock up any electronics and walk through a metal detector, otherwise I would post some highly classified selfies over the next six weeks. Our final day will be (and I quote) “shooting guns and blowing up stuff” over at their training facility. 

Thanks, David! You’re my hero!

 

 

The Rules of Running 30 Days in a Row

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I’m going to admit that my original plan to run 30 days in a row was supposed to start two days ago, on April 1st. I didn’t have a good reason for not running on Tuesday, other than the weather is cold and crappy and very Portland…which typically is a reason to run because I much prefer to run in the rain. Then yesterday I was so exhausted after work that I went straight home, crawled into bed, and took a long nap before even making dinner.

Is it that we are back to work after Spring Break? Is it the cold, grey weather? What is this lethargic malaise that has overtaken me? I have a student teacher teaching half the day so I certainly can’t say I’m working too hard.

And then I see this article on CNN about how running isn’t necessarily all that amazing for you. Like, thanks for the motivation dudes.

In about an hour, I’m headed to a new month of a Boot Camp class I’ve been doing with several other teachers most of the year. It’s forcing me to put on my workout pants when all I want to do is roll myself up in a blanket and marathon Mad Men. But I’m going…and I’m going to get there early to run first (even if I do have a grumpy look on my face).

So what exactly are the rules of running 30 days in a row? 

1. Run at least one mile a day. That’s like a total of 9 minutes or less. If I can’t muster up 9 minutes, then I might as well just give up on life. 

2. Run at least 10 miles a week. This allows me to go easy on my Boot Camp days, and have some easy 3 mile runs in between. I’m not trying to do an ultra marathon here…just run a 30 day stretch.

3. Track all my runs for proof. Of course I’ll post for legitimacy…I don’t want anyone calling me a cheater.

4. Quit if I get injured. I have a history of overtraining and injuring myself so I need to be realistic. If it’s day 15 and I hurt myself, I can just try again in June. No biggie.

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Books of March

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I made it through two real books, and one small comic last month. But to be fair I spent a solid week working on my application for admin jobs – so it’s not like I was squandering my time on Animal Crossing (…not too much, that is…).

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Gray is Not a Color – by Sally Madden: Don’t be fooled by the cover; this comic was published just last year. I was so excited, as it promised the first hand account of being an intern at the famous Mutter Museum (hello! my dream job!). While it provided a few fun tidbits, I was left completely wanting. When I flipped the last page, I literally said, “That was it?!” I also downloaded the electronic copy and the resolution was terrible. 2 out of 5 stars.

 

 

ImageSt Mawr – by DH Lawrence: Not sure what came over me, but I was compelled to buy a hard copy of St Mawr at a vintage book shop during my trip to Phoenix. It is my favorite DH Lawrence story but it has been a good ten years since I last read it. Basically, it’s about a girl and a horse. And good and evil, and life and death, and mothers and daughters, and man vs nature, and innocence lost and pretty much every other theme you could imagine, all subtly packed into one little novella. That’s what makes DH Lawrence my favorite author of all time. Perhaps it’s that I am always seeking more, always thinking, always questioning, that is story resonates with me. Or maybe I just like horses. This book is not for everyone, but I think it’s possibly one of the best things ever written.

 

 

ImageThe Outlander – by Gil Adamson: I read that this book was being adapted for the screen several years ago, and then I couldn’t find anything new, and I’m devastated. It immediately starts off with a young woman running for her life after murdering her husband (for reasons we don’t find out immediately) into the wilderness to survive on her own. The writing is incredibly cinematic, and I felt like a casting director as each new character was introduced. Dear Hollywood: here is who pictured for each role:

The Ridgerunner: Joseph Gordon Levitt

The Reverend: Daniel Day Lewis

McEchern: Peter Dinklage

The Jail Keeper’s Wife: Helen Mirren

The Widow: Lady Gaga

Did I not just make an Academy Award Winning blockbuster or what?! Anyway, I totally recommend this book.

 

9 Things I did over Spring Break that didn’t involve “The List”

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On the very first day of Spring Break, I parked myself at a nearby Shari’s for something like five hours to pound out the final pieces of my application for our school district’s Assistant Principal job pool. They only give you one week to get everything done, and while I had finished all the normal requirements earlier in the week (resume, letters of rec, etc), I still had four essays to write. I’m not sure if it’s a habit back from my college days or what, but sitting in a public space with free-flowing coffee is where I get my best work done.

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The next day, I flew to Phoenix with my friend, Megan, whom I’ve known since 6th grade. She lives in Seattle and we really, REALLY needed some sunshine.

I worked so hard on my admin application, that I decided to take a break from my goal list, too. Sometimes you need a break from more than just work, but also your personal life (…even if it’s as awesome as mine happens to be).

9Things I Did Over Spring Break that Didn’t Involve “The List”

1. I got my bronze on.

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2. I ate too much candy and got a stomach ache.

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3. I picked an orange right off a tree!

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4. I hiked to the top of what Arizonians consider a “mountain.” (This wouldn’t even have registered as a hill in Oregon).

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5. I broke into a pool on the top floor of another hotel and watched a dust storm.

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6. I took a city bus after a cab driver dropped us off in the middle of nowhere. (BTW, cab drivers in Phoenix are hella shady).

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7. I got half-involved in saving a bunch of baby ducklings (yes, they made it safely back home).

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8. I got the hard copy of J.J. Abrahm’s book, S. (Thor said I sounded like the double rainbow guy when I was opening it up).

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9. I watched the season finale of “Girls.” 

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Tomorrow I’m back into the real world…just a whole lot more tan.

Back in the kitchen, or up at the microphone

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(insert annoyingly long stressed out noise here)

Tonight I spent a couple hours reconfiguring my resume because applications to our school district Assistant Principal pool are due this weekend. Tomorrow I will start writing my answers to the four essay questions they require, and by Thursday I should have all my letters of recommendation uploaded. Looking for a job sucks, especially when you already have a good one and you a good kick in the pants to get yourself going.

That being said, I’m also working on a nifty flyer to advertise the class I’ll be teaching with my colleague, Angela, this summer at Portland State University. 

To top it off, my buddies over in Kansas asked me if I would be interested in leading a presentation on podcasting at this summer’s SIM Conference, to which I replied, “Of course!” 

Why am I telling you all this? Well a year ago, I was feeling like my career had no options. Angela and I were bemoaning our lack of professional movement (especially as the power team that we are). We decided to take things into our own hands and start a podcast about strategies/ideas we used in the classroom, and our experience leading workshops for teachers. Maybe this will get the word out, we thought, which is pretty rad because it worked…and the experience has been fun (for a couple of teacher nerds like ourselves).

Last weekend, my school had their big fancy auction.  At the end of the night, I sat at our table watching parents drunkenly bid and shout while the auction co-chair tried to corral their raucous laughter, and conversely the kitchen staff was scrambling to clear tables as we were already 45 minutes past our limit. I said to Thor, “I feel like I’m someone who needs to either be back in the kitchen, or up at the microphone.” 

After spending the night on my resume, I’m egotistically impressed with all my hard work and experience over the last seven years in education. From what I’ve seen, administrators are very often “back in the kitchen” or “up at the microphone” so I really hope this is my calling. 

The Fred Meyer Incident

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Right around this time last year, I had an immensely stressful week at school. The sun was finally shining and the kids went insane; we were in the midst of high stakes state testing; my boss was ignoring me in all forms of communication; the other teachers were equally stressed and my room was a revolving vent session everyday after school. The week ended with breaking up three different fights in the hallway, and right before the end of the day, my boss suddenly acknowledged my presence by sending me an email questioning my students’ low scores on the state test. 

I went home and was asleep in bed by 7:30pm, no joke. TGIF.

Yet, the next morning, I woke up early and had a great workout with my trainer at the gym. As I did ball slams with the medicine ball, I pictured myself smashing away all the bad things from the previous week. I even stayed for an additional hour on the spin bike, and then challenged myself to run a mile as fast as possible. It was an EPIC workout.

When I walked out of the gym, the sun was shining for the first time in months and I said to myself, “Let’s start the weekend!” Wherein I drove across the street to Fred Meyer to get a jump on the week’s grocery shopping. As I entered the lot, I spied a guy getting into his car RIGHT next to the front doors. I deserve that spot after such a tough workout, I said to myself and patiently waited for the guy fumbling with his keys. Families were coming in and out, blocking me from pulling in; No Worries, I said to myself, I’ve got all the time in the world.

Suddenly an SUV screeched up next to me and a woman screamed, “LAZY ASS!” out her open window and screeched off. Well THAT was uncalled for, I said to myself, and pulled into the open spot. I continued to track her parking in the far corner of the lot, and something snapped. She could have called me any other name in the book, but “lazy” hit a raw nerve. Like a movie, I saw flashes of my boss’s scowling face, my poverty-stricken students, my unhappy co-workers, and all the extra hours I had put in without getting paid. I grabbed my bag and literally sprinted across the lot towards her, my exhausted legs burning.

“HEY!” I shouted as she stepped out of her car. She looked at me and I yelled, “Nobody calls me LAZY!” She responded with some inappropriate words about my lazy parking job, and I gave her some right back about her sloppy outfit. She made a comment about my workout clothes and I fervently rehashed my hours at the gym. We continued to march toward the store, the distance between our faces steadily decreasing. I kept thinking, I’m one of the hardest working teachers I know and my boss hates me and instead of sleeping in, I got my ass up and worked out and and and….

Pretty soon we were in the foyer of Freddie’s and I put my hand in her face and said, “Don’t look at me – don’t talk to me – I’m OUT OF HERE,” and as I turned away, she sneered, “Maybe your ass needs to get BACK on the treadmill…”

I whipped around, threw my bag to the floor and exclaimed, “LET’S GO!” We were in each other’s faces and I had a feeling she’d cream me in a fight, but I could take it. Behind her, I saw a store employee walking our way and several small children with their parents looking at us in shock. I had a moment of clarity and thought to myself, What the hell am I doing? After a stare down, I put my hand back in her face, stomped off, and grabbed a shopping cart. 

In the store, I was cross comparing yogurts and noticed people looking at me, probably thinking, There’s that chick who was about to fight and now she’s buying yogurt…wtf? I decided it would be best to head home and started checking out. The cashier was handing me my receipt and I gave a big fake, “No, thank YOU!” as I noticed two police officers talking to people pointing in my general direction. Logistically, my car was at a different entrance (remember that sprint across the parking lot?) so I put my head down and wheeled nonchalantly around the corner…until I was out of sight and hauled ass to my car and peeled away.

Once home, I laughingly asked Thor if he would have bailed me out of jail, and he replied, “Hell no! I would have made you sit and think about what you did!” 

Within 24 hours, I made the decision to find another job. There was no way about it, I had to get out of there in any shape or form. It was like a switched had been turned on. Within six weeks, I had accepted my current position. Every single day I wonder what life might be life if I had stayed…and it’s scary. I have a feeling that the Fred Meyer incident was just a lead up to something more out of control. There’s a point at which all signs point to “GET THE HELL OUT” and you can’t ignore them.

This last week the sun finally started shining again, and the kids were nuts, but my new boss gave me several compliments (via email and in person) and I spent my lunches joking around with coworkers about things we’d seen on the internet. The week finished out with my school’s big fancy auction, where parents greeted and complimented me, and I was treated to free dinner.

As I am now applying for leadership positions, I am reminded how much can change in year, but you must be the impetus for that change if you want it to occur.

 

Suck it Up – Part Deux

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A little over a year ago, I wrote a post called “Suck it Up” about how to get over yourself or other external forces that may get in your way. The post was focused on exercise because I was just getting back into running and rehabbing my knee. I seriously don’t know why I don’t have a “Suck it Up” t-shirt yet (hel-lo Nike! I just wrote your next best seller!) but it still runs through my head (and out of my mouth) all the time.

Today was a “Suck it Up” kind of day. 

To start, it’s suddenly sunny in Portland, hurray boo! For the rest of the world, this is great news. 60 degrees in Portland means everyone is wearing shorts, drinking a beer on the patio, and riding their fixy-bike around with a multitude of children and dogs in tow. For teachers, it means the students have gone crazy.

I’m the first to admit that my class this year is a DREAM. I went from a school where I literally had to call 911 to break up violent mobs, to a school where` I read aloud to students while they eat organic, gluten-free, wanna-be Oreos as their morning snack. That being said, I’ve found both socio-economic groups to be equally annoying once the spring sun comes out.

By 3:00, I was EXHAUSTED. I wanted to lay my head on my desk and listen to ambient music, but instead I rushed down the street to get my nails done before my 5:00 Boot Camp class. You would think 2 hours is enough to get a manicure, but I had the most detail-oriented woman who gave me the finest manicure I’ve ever had, but made me completely late to my workout (#firstworldproblems).

I raced out the door (already late) and attempted to pull my nylons off and pull my workout pants on at a stoplight. Traffic was terrible, and by the time I made it there I was 30 minutes late for a 60 minute class, and half-dressed at that. No biggie! I said to myself. Suck it up! You’re here!

I decided to stay and run on the treadmill to make up for my lost time. I had forgotten a hair tie, so my poorly bobby pinned hair kept dropping sweaty pieces in my face. Then I got a side-splitting cramp (which I NEVER get). After 3:52 minutes of running through my miserable cramp, the treadmill blanked out and wouldn’t come back on (as if to say, Stop…just stop…). I headed over to a spin bike, declaring, Suck it up!

Once on the spin bike, my arms (greased up from the manicure) were DRIPPING SWEAT in an embarrassing manner, and the brake kept slipping, causing the bike to make the sound of a dying yak. The guy next to me kept looking over in complete annoyance. I just kept repeating my mantra, “Suck it up,” and remember some quote I read on Pinterest that said, You always regret a workout you skipped, but you never regret a workout you finished.

Right about then, I accidentally knocked my phone from it’s resting position and watched it slide a good 15 feet across the concrete floor with an enormous commotion.

I decided to call it good. Today just wasn’t working, but I sucked it up anyway. It would have been very easy to lost my patience and snap at my students, or skip the gym because I was late. In the grand scheme of things, my problems are insignificant and trivial.

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