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Greatness

Tonight, I was surrounded by greatness.

In a small dance studio, huddled around the window with other dance moms, I witnessed pure love and life lessons unfolding.

It’s what we all hope for our own children.

Love.

Love from others, love for others, love in what they do.  Tonight I saw it all.

Let me tell you a dance mom story…

We are in the midst of competition season.  The owner’s least favorite season of the year.  There are long rehearsals with tired kids and emotions running on supercharged fumes.

It also happens to be Spring Break season.  The time when kids are free from the schedules of school, and old friends return from college for a few days.

Tonight as I wandered into the studio to watch the end of rehearsal, there I saw a former dancer sitting amidst the studio kids.  Despite the long rehearsal schedule and “wash, rinse, repeat” nature of preparing for a competition, there she sat.  She wasn’t there to dance.  She wasn’t there to prep for competition.  She was there to soak up the goodness.  The greatness.

Tired kids ran song after song after solo after solo.  And then it happened.  In a moment of pure genius, the owner cued up this former dancer’s solo music from last year.

The entire group of studio kids present, from age 6 to 16, erupted in cheers.  This dancer started dancing with the biggest smile on her face, and all of us moms just watched in wonder.

To increase the already mounting happiness in the room, the next song on cue was a former group hip hop routine from last year.  Immediately, exhausted dancers couldn’t get on the floor fast enough to relive the song with her.

And then the owner turns to all of the other dancers and says, “Let this be a lesson.  Even if you leave, you can ALWAYS come back.”  It was pure greatness.

Now, you must understand, this young college student is not making a life and career of dance (as far as I know).  She has gone off to college to discover her dreams, and yet she still returns every trip home to this tiny dance studio.  Why?  Because it is where she knows love lives.

The studio owner may not have realized it at the time, but in those moments tonight, she taught our children everything they need to know about life:

Love those around you.  
Celebrate being together.  
Cheer one another on.  
You can always come home.  
And when all else fails, dance.

If my daughter doesn’t place at competition this week, it won’t matter.  Eventually this competition they are preparing for will be a distant memory.  No one will remember what the judges said, how they scored, or even if they placed at all. 

But mark my words, none of those kids will ever forget what they learned tonight.  It wasn’t about dancing on the counts or staying together on the choreography.  They learned that no matter where life takes them, they always have a loving place to come back to where they will be celebrated, cheered for, and included.

And that, my friends, is why I’m a dance mom.

Be grateful (for life lessons), water your own grass,

…and drink coffee.

“Daring Greatly”…or at least “Daring Well”

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

-Theodore Roosevelt

Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

Confession.

I do not “dare greatly.”  Some days, I don’t dare at all, and on a good day?  Well, maybe I don’t “dare greatly”, but I try to manage “daring well”.

When you hear the words “daring greatly,” what do you think about?  I was envisioning skydiving or paragliding off a huge cliff.  Maybe even cleaning out my kid’s lunch box at the end of a two-week break.  That is definitely taking a huge risk.  Surely that must qualify as “daring greatly”?

What I didn’t imagine was the idea that “daring greatly” means you must put your most vulnerable self out there for the world to see.  It doesn’t sound so scary until you really start considering it…

Let the whole world know that, despite what everyone says, I’m still insecure about my ability to teach nine-year-olds?  No way.  Confess to everyone I know that every time anyone asks how I am doing, I will automatically say, “Hanging in there!” (even if I am definitely NOT “hanging in there”)?  I’ll pass.  Admit to the world that despite the Facebook pictures that brag otherwise, I am not the multitasking, super-mom they see?  Never.  Why would I want to risk damaging a façade that is working so well?

Enter: Brené Brown.  If you have gone this far in life without reading anything by the great Brené Brown, stop what you are doing right now.  Do yourself a favor and go to Amazon right now.  I’ll wait…

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead: Brown, Brené: 9781592408412: Amazon.com: Books

Done?  Good.  Now, let me tell you why Daring Greatly is a must-read.

This woman has dug through cultural and personal baggage to help the rest of the world understand that taking great risks means being your most vulnerable self.  It means that even in your weakest moment, you will make the greatest gains when you are willing to reveal your true self and trust those around you to accept, support, and encourage that risk.  Talk about daring greatly!  Most days it feels like a risk just leaving the house five minutes late while rockin’ a “going-on-five-day dry shampoo hair job”.  So, what would it feel like to take the real risk of vulnerability and really be open to the response you get?

According to Brown, “Vulnerability isn’t good or bad: It’s not what we call a dark emotion, nor is it always a light, positive experience.  Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings.  To feel is to be vulnerable.” (Brown, 2012.)  Armed with this knowledge, it would seem easy to embrace vulnerability, right?  If I want to feel, I must show others my most vulnerable persona.  Easy, right?

But being vulnerable is only easy, well…when it’s easy.  Telling your closest friends about a major work mishap that you, yourself, caused?  Easy!  Your friends tell you not to worry and that it was just a mistake. 

On the other hand, confessing to your child that you threw away their tooth fairy tooth because, quite honestly, you were distracted and busy and weren’t listening when they told you they lost a tooth and didn’t pay attention that they put it in a bag for safe keeping…well, that doesn’t earn you any rewards or brownie points.  Wouldn’t it just be easier to explain it away?  Tell them it wasn’t your fault and that you’re SURE they didn’t tell you about the tooth in the bag or else you would have never tossed it? 

That is definitely not daring greatly.  Instead, wouldn’t it be the daring thing to tell your child that you were distracted and didn’t give them the attention they deserved?

I can’t proclaim that I am great at “daring greatly.”  I still have so many things to work on, but Brown’s research gives me hope.  I strive to be the wife and mom that can say, as so eloquently written by Brown, “I’m with you.  I’m in the arena.  And when we fail, we’ll fail together while daring greatly.” (Brown, 2012.)  I want to be the parent who can allow their child to struggle with the experience of vulnerability because, as Brown has so diligently researched, it breeds hope.  I wish to be the friend who can sincerely say, “Lay it on me.  Tell me and let me understand.” 

Am I there yet?  Most definitely not.  I still have days that I doubt my teaching expertise, yell at my own children, and refuse to tell my husband why I’m mad about things that could easily be resolved if I was willing to lay out my vulnerability.  However, I am growing each day.  I am writing to all of you and sharing things that make me incredibly vulnerable.  I am learning to create a mind space that allows me to be both vulnerable and forgiving of myself.  I am reteaching my brain how to interact with my students and my own children in a way that encourages vulnerability and breeds understanding and connection. 

I learn a little day by day.  In the meantime, I’ll look for the miraculum, love my family, keep “daring well,” and, of course…drink coffee.

Be grateful, water your own grass,

…and drink coffee.

Sources:

Brown, B. (2015). Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (Reprint ed.). Avery.

March Favorites

My favorite things (that you could probably live without, but shouldn’t)…

Here is your March guide to all my favorite finds. Check out what I’ve been loving, reading, and cooking. Grab a good read, a Starbucks, and relax in the best joggers while imagining you are on a beach.

L’ange hairdryer

My hairdryer of many years went on the fritz a few months ago.  I’ve purchased from L’ange a few times, and I love the Le Duo and the curling wand that I have.  I bought the wand a few years ago, and then upgraded to the Le Duo since it can both curl and straighten. I had been eying the L’ange line of drying products, and let me tell you, they’re worth every penny. 

They have a few different drying products.  There is their star dryer Le Styliste and Le Styliste Luxe which was a little much for my needs.  In addition, they also have the Le Vite which is a straightening brush, but I opted for two of their other drying products.  I ordered both the Le Volume (60MM) brush dryer (pictured here) and the Soleil hair dryer. 

I LOVE them both, but for an everyday hair dryer, the Soleil dryer is amazing.  Three heat settings, a cool setting, and two airflow settings.  It also comes with an attachment to concentrate the air.  My hair dries quickly, frizz free, and shiny. 

Compared to my old Conair, there really isn’t any comparison.  This is by far superior.  It’s usually a little over $100, but if you’re patient, L’ange posts amazing sales all the time!  I snagged a buy one, get one deal and managed to get both the Soleil and Le Volume for the price of one. 

Oh, and don’t be surprised if you find any of these on backorder.  They’re definitely hot, but worth the wait to restock!

Soleil Hair Dryer Blush – L’ange Hair (langehair.com)

Old Navy Joggers

Old Navy and I have a love-hate relationship.  When I go shopping there, I either find nothing for me—which I hate—or I find a ton of stuff I can’t live without—which I also hate.  😂  These joggers are my newest love-hate obsession. 

Think, your favorite workout leggings, but turned into joggers.  The material isn’t the thin, flimsy parachute material from the 90’s.  (Don’t lie, all of you forty somethings know exactly what I’m talking about!)  They are super comfy, really stylish, and they have a high waistline and pockets (which is really the most important thing)!  They run true to size and come in a whole slew of colors.  Grab them!  You won’t regret it.

High-Waisted PowerSoft 7/8-Length Joggers for Women | Old Navy (gap.com)

Il Makiage Concealer

It’s no secret that I’m a die-hard SeneGence girl.  I love their products, which is the only reason I sell their products.  However, I am also a basic makeup lover at heart, so once in a while I feel like there are products with such great reviews that I just HAVE to try them. 

This concealer was one of those products, and it does not disappoint.  The cool thing about this online based company is that you can customize your shade in less than five minutes via a series of online questions that are coupled with a lot of pictures to fine tune your shade.  I was definitely hesitant, but the money back guarantee convinced me to try it. 

The color match was perfect, the coverage is amazing, and it definitely lasts through my crazy work day.  It’s an added bonus that it has a see-through line on the side of the tube so I can tell when I need to reorder.  I can’t say that I’m a makeup convert, but this concealer has earned a permanent spot in my makeup bag.

F*CK I’M FLAWLESS – Concealer – Face (ilmakiage.com)

Raeburn Chardonnay

You all know that I’m a sucker for a good Chardonnay.  I’m a lover of most wine, but this one was memorable.  Hubby and I discovered it on our relocation adventure last month while we were staying at an Embassy Suites in Aberdeen, NC.  Luckily, our local grocery store also carries it! 

It is the perfect balance of oaky vanilla and crisp green apple.  I would even say it reminds me of the minerality of my wine lesson days from Paso Robles, CA.  This one come from Sonoma County’s Russian River.  It’s moderately priced at around $15, so it feels fancy without making a dent in your Starbuck’s spending money.  We found it locally at our grocery store, but you can also check your local Total Wine & More for stock.

Raeburn Chardonnay RRV | Total Wine & More

Every Plate

Where are my friends that are already tired of hearing me rave about Every Plate meal box service?  One of my good friends turned me onto the service, and now I’m addicted. 

We order a three-meal box almost every week.  You can choose two or four servings per meal, but there is also the option to increase the servings if you have a larger family or are planning to entertain.  You are even able to add more than three meals for those super busy weeks. 

Don’t worry about committing to a weekly box, either. This service allows you to skip any week(s) you want, and you can choose meals weeks in advance.  They have a good variety of meal options, and some of them can even be customized.  Even better is that everything they send you is premeasured and fresh.  Fresh veggies and meat, premeasured seasoning packets, and concentrated stock packets.  The directions are easy to follow (and include pictures for the cooking illiterate like me). 

The box comes packed with insulated ice packs to keep things cold all the way from New York.  In all the time I’ve been ordering the boxes, I think I’ve only tossed a couple bad tomatoes.  Everything comes extremely fresh and lasts in my fridge until I’m ready to cook it.  Here’s the thing, if these meals are hubby approved, you KNOW they’re legit. 

Cost wise I feel that despite the fact that I’m paying shipping, I STILL spend less on groceries because the boxes are so reasonably priced.  I’ll post the link below, but make sure to hit me up (or another friend who subscribes) before you order.  They offer great discounts for your first box!

EveryPlate: The Affordable Meal Kit for Everyone | EveryPlate

You are a Badass by Jen Sincero

If you’re looking for some inspirational reading that will leave you motivated, inspired, and loving yourself, check out this book. 

The reviews are only so-so, but I took a chance and ordered it.  It’s an unconventional, yet motivational series of stories, life experiences, and advice that left me wanting to tackle my biggest dreams.  Or at least tackle the pile of looming laundry without holding a grudge. 

She taps into the idea of trusting the universe or whatever higher power you believe in, but she does so in a way that is down to earth and real.  It’s a quick read that you’ll either love or hate. 

For me, the book can be characterized by her quote in chapter 23, “So often, we pretend we’ve made a decision, when what we’ve really done is signed up to try until it gets too uncomfortable.”  If you’re looking for some inspirational reading to accompany your morning coffee, check it out.

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life: Sincero, Jen: 9780762447695: Amazon.com: Books

Bath and Body Works Fiji White Sands

Wishing I was here!

Think: teacher on a beach during Spring Break…vanilla, coconut, and sweet fruity spices.  Enough said.

Fiji White Sands Wallflowers Fragrance Refill | Bath & Body Works (bathandbodyworks.com)

Starbucks drink of the month: Venti Latte

Strong enough for a teacher managing a class of 30 with spring fever, chill enough for a Saturday shopping spree.

Caffè Latte: Starbucks Coffee Company

Until next month,

Be grateful, water your own grass,

…and drink coffee.

A Champagne Confession

“Man is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems.” -Epictetus

Confession.

Yesterday I drank mimosas.  Plural.  Maybe eight of them.  Okay, honestly, I didn’t count, but it was definitely more than is reasonably acceptable. 

Mimosas are happy drinks.  They have bubbles.  They are a cheery yellow color.  You drink them in fancy glasses.  Happy drinks.  But that isn’t why it sounded like a good idea.  (Spoiler alert: drinking that much Champagne is never a good idea.)

Today on my walk around the neighborhood, I asked myself, “What in the actual hell, Angie?”  I knew yesterday that those pretty bubbles were not going to solve any problems, but I still popped the cork and poured the glass.

So why would any reasonably level-headed, masters educated, smart girl decide to do such a thing?

Sometimes I have so much emotion bottled up inside of me that it seeps out.  It comes out in random crying fits and angry outbursts over silly things and eyerolls.  But sometimes it doesn’t come out at all.  Instead, it gets wrapped up so tightly that it seems like nothing will come out. 

Champagne bubbles might let happy rise to the surface when they are consumed during happy times—weddings and job promotions and seven a.m. airport drinks on the way to a glamorous island. 

But they also numb.  They take the spiraling web of emotions and push them to the back for a while.  The problem is that doesn’t actually solve anything. 

So, today, the wad of emotions was there waiting for me at 5:00 a.m.  It came with enough nervous energy to make me wash dishes.  At 5:00 in the morning.  It managed to stick around all day.  It’s still here sitting with me, messing up my head.

So, the question is, how do we learn to sit with the uncomfortable, twisted anxiety inside that we ultimately KNOW we must deal with?  How do we accept those feelings for what they are, define their roots, and untangle the mess?  

That is not something I have the answer to, but I assure you the answer is not eight mimosas or doing dishes in the wee hours of the morning.

So tonight, instead of numbing my web of emotions with bubbles, I’ll be real.  I will sit with the emotion, just as it is.  Maybe some of it will seep out or maybe it will stay tightly wired together inside my head. 

Either way, I know that tomorrow will bring a new day.  There will be a sunny, balmy desert day waiting for me.  There will be smiling innocent faces willing to give me hugs at work, friends who will stop by my classroom to see if it is a better day, and the promise of new inspiration.

And coffee.  So much coffee.

For today, friends, take my advice.  Skip the mimosas, sit with the twisted ball of emotions, and look for the miraculum.  I promise, it’s there.  And if all else fails…

Be grateful (anyhow), water your own grass (even if it is with tears),

…and drink coffee.

Miraculum

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. -Albert Einstein

Miraculum, by definition means, “wonder, marvel, miracle; a wonderful, strange or marvelous thing.” (“miraculum,” 2022).  It hails from Latin roots, and quite honestly, I feel that it sums up moments of our life in a way that English doesn’t do justice.

Maybe it’s the way my daughter views the perfect day of dancing.  It could be how my son feels after tearing through the desert on our friends’ side-by-side.  It might be the way our military daughter feels when she shows up on the doorstep unannounced and excited that she pulled off a surprise entrance.  Perhaps it’s the way my husband feels after catching the biggest fish, presenting the perfect meal, or winning Roulette on red fourteen.

For me, it is the word that sums up all the reasons I am where I am. 

The kind stranger that helped a twenty-something me change a blown-out tire on the side of a busy interstate when I was driving alone cross state.  Miraculum. 

Divorced at age twenty-five, only to find my true soul mate waiting for me in a smoky, country dance hall on a random Thursday night.  Miraculum. 

That teaching job I landed with zero experience because someone just happened to resign the very day I called the school to ask if they had openings.  Miraculum. 

The time I missed a wayward driver crashing into our car with my daughter inside, all because I had accidentally crept a little too far into the intersection seconds before she would have hit us.  Miraculum.

All my life is a series of fortunate events that have no explanation.  Do I deserve all of this? All of this “miraculum” that has created a life I never could have imagined?  I don’t know the answer to that, but this much I do know…

Between the laundry and the lesson plans, between the dance practices and football games, between the everyday and mundane…there is extraordinary out there just waiting to reveal itself—if you are only open enough to accept it for what it is.  A gift.  A wonder.  A strange and marvelous thing that can’t be explained.

But, really…would you want an explanation even if there was one?  Or is it enough to revel in the beauty that it is? Tell me…what is your miraculum moment this week?

Be grateful, water your own grass,

…and drink coffee.

Sources:

miraculum. (2022). In WordSense. https://www.wordsense.eu/miraculum/