Pep Talks

Who doesn’t love a good pep talk? Especially a memorable one. A couple from favorite movies come to mind. Aragorn’s rallying speech at the Black Gate in Return of the King. Or what about the final scene from Dances with Wolves. Wind in his Hair shouts his message of lasting friendship to John Dunbar from a nearby ridge. Both are examples of acknowledgment and encouragement during difficult times.

I have recently found myself on the receiving end of some pep talks. One of them came from me but most were from my husband, Gart.

My chat with myself was relatively simple. I was taking a quick bathroom break between classes, preparing to rehearse for our upcoming Veterans Day assembly. As I caught a glimpse of my frazzled reflection in the mirror, I muttered something like, “Just breathe. You can do this. You can do this.” It helped a little.

Gart’s pep talks were much more beneficial. His words reassured me of my skills as a teacher. He took the time to acknowledge my state of exhaustion. And he described strength in me that I don’t always recognize.

The funny thing is, I’m not sure I realized how much those pep talks were needed until after they occurred. And even though I reacted with tears, a weight was immediately lifted. I suppose that’s what happens when a pep talk comes from someone who knows me so well. Someone who challenges me and loves me no matter what.

Our pep talks may not qualify as blockbuster movie moments. But in my reel of life’s moments, they are more than simple highlights. They are crucial moments etched in my memory. Moments that keep me going long after the sounds of the words have faded.

Younger Me

If only I could talk to
The younger me
So many things
I would say-

Slow down
Don’t be in a hurry
To grow up
Time flies exponentially

Hours at the piano
Will serve you well
Easing your mind
When times get tough

Some guys
Are not worth
The heartache
Be patient ❤

You will have scars
On the inside
No one can see
Unless you share

It is important to
Honestly express
Your thoughts and feelings
Out loud or on paper

Mistakes don’t define you
But admitting them
May allow you
To help others

All of your decisions
Good and bad
Play a role
In who you will become

-Perhaps those words
Would help her to know
The future is bright
And she will be ok

Together

A sea of faces
Beautiful and diverse
Pass by each day
Smiling, even though
They lack necessities
I take for granted
Bravely coping
With a life
Filled with holes
Left empty by the
Choices of others
Not of their own
Too many holes
For one person to fill
On their own
Others see the same faces
Recognize the same deficits
Ask the same questions
What is the need?
How can we help?
Where do we start?
Encouraging each other
We begin to repair holes
One at a time-together

Tiny Little Steps

Our last full day in Colorado, we chose to hike the Agnes Vaille Falls trail. This particular hike is not long, about a mile and a half round trip. The problem for non-locals is elevation. The trail begins at around 9,000 ft. and another 500 ft. is gained by the falls overlook.

I hiked this trail for the first time twenty-six years ago. Gart and I were on our honeymoon. Younger, and in much better shape, it was not a tough trek. And the views were amazing!

I’ve hiked the trail several other times since then. The last time was in 2012, a little harder for me than that very first hike on our honeymoon in 1993.

Gart, Rachel, and Ryan wanted to make the hike on this trip. I wanted to as well but wasn’t confident I could make it to the top. I am a tad older, and not exactly in tip-top shape. But I had to give it a try.

We headed out, water bottles in tow. Gart reassured me we would take breaks. We let the kids go ahead of us. Not long on the trail, and I was breathing heavy. I kept telling myself, “You can do this. Just keep moving.” But honestly, I was worried.

Then I heard the most encouraging words coming from my husband. “You can do this. Remember, tiny little steps. One foot in front of the other. You’re doing great!”

Gart knew how much I wanted to succeed. He also recognized my doubts. Perfect timing, his words were exactly what I needed to hear. The higher we went, the more confident I became. My thought changed to, “You are going to make it!” And for just a moment, I fought back a few tears.

About three-quarters of the way up, there is a huge flat rock on the trail. It provides a perfect spot for photo ops with a beautiful mountain backdrop. We have a picture of us standing on this rock from our honeymoon and then again in 2012.

Despite some changes to the trail, that rock still sits in its place. And when we reached that rock on this hike? I was so happy! There were no remaining doubts in my mind. Our daughter, Rachel, snapped our picture in the same spot we first stood twenty-six years ago. And me being mom, we also got a pic of her and her younger brother, Ryan.

Once we reached the peak of the trail, the waterfall was clearly in sight. We stood there, looking across the rocky ravine at the beautiful falls. We snapped pictures, talked to another hiker, and studied how the area has changed.

On our way down, we chose an alternate loop trail. A few turns and steps lead down to the flowing stream. I heard Gart’s voice once again. “Well, Mama, how much of an adventure are you in for?” I certainly couldn’t quit now!

Moments later, we were crossing the stream. Carefully placing our steps, we walked across some fallen trees. Further down the trail, we did it again!

The remainder of the hike was easy, all downhill. The hardest part long past. As we reached the car, I was smiling. “Yay! I did it!”

I’m sure Gart would argue, but I would not have made it without his words of encouragement. Seeing those falls again, taking our picture, experiencing this beautiful place with my family…it was worth each tiny little step.

Connections Revisited

Back-to-school ads are everywhere. Supplies are stocked at all the local stores. As a teacher, I cannot ignore the fact that school will start soon. This realization leads to a renewed focus on connections.

Why have I not read this before?

I was recently speaking with some young educators preparing for upcoming New Teacher Induction. Such a stressful time with so much information. My advice to them? Focus on making connections!

The first year of teaching truly is the hardest. There are so many unknowns. Setting up a classroom, school expectations, new curriculum, etc. But one friendly, helpful colleague makes all those unknowns less scary.

Positive relationships with other teachers lead to positive relationships with students. Making time is key. Students come to school with personal stories. Stories they are eager to share. And they want to know about their teacher as well. Sharing these stories lays the foundation for learning.

Since I am transferring to a new school this year, there will be many new stories to hear. I am thankful for some familiar faces sprinkled throughout the building. Previously established connections which offer encouragement. But my students? A sea of unfamiliar faces and new names.

Some days the task feels overwhelming. Then there are days like yesterday. A much-needed visit with an encouraging mom and her two sweet kids, now former students. Laughing and talking, saying “Thank you” and “I will miss you.” I left with renewed confidence for the coming year and a reminder of the power which comes from making connections.

Bright spots. 🙂

That first day will be here soon. I will stand at my door and greet those new faces with a smile. The music playing in the background will be the next step in creating new connections. Connections which will grow and be revisited right when they are needed.

A Letter to Foster Parents

Dear Foster Parent,

There are some things I want to share with you. Things I noticed while spending time with my young friend who is in foster care. Although my perceptions originate from one specific child, I hope they resonate with you and provide encouragement.

The following list represents what I want my friends foster mom to know:

  • She talks about you often.
  • Asks when you will be back to pick her up.
  • Easily refers to you as “Mom.”
  • Happily shares that you call her “daughter.”
  • Confidently includes herself when describing your children.
  • Refers to your parents as Memaw and Pawpaw.
  • Talks about how hard you work.
  • Likes helping you.
  • Proudly says that you help children.
  • Wants to help children when she grows up.
  • Is happy and secure, thanks to you.

So, in case you have not heard these things with your own ears, I thought you should know. What you are doing matters. Your sacrifices do not go unnoticed. There are difficult days, trauma-induced behaviors, and unanswered questions. Yet, in the midst of all this, you love. And love is the only thing which has the power to bring healing.

My Sincerest Thanks,

Kelley

Rollercoaster

A rollercoaster often starts out slow, moving upward, tension building as it climbs. Once it reaches the top of the first incline, the real adventure begins. Twists, turns, rolls, and spins jolt the whole body. Squeals and screams express excitement and/or fear, depending on the rider. Then it stops, just abruptly as it began. Cue feelings of relief.

When I was younger, rollercoasters were a thrill. Riding over and over, I would laugh and scream, loving that rush of adrenaline. That is no longer the case, and it hasn’t been for quite a while. As a matter of fact, I once had an anxiety attack in front of my kids involving a rollercoaster.

We had taken a family vacation to Kansas City. A fun road trip which would include shopping, museums, eating, and an amusement park. The kids were excited. Each had a favorite activity on the list. And everyone was looking forward to the amusement park. Everyone except me.

Looking back, I now realize anxiety crept in before we even arrived in Kansas City. Any mention of the park would cause my stomach to nervously turn and tears would start to form. I would suddenly feel tense, my heart racing. And then I would push it all away, trying to breathe and focus on the activity at hand.

What I didn’t realize, was that pushing these feelings away did not get rid of them. It only buried them temporarily. And when we simply bury feelings, they are sure to resurface at some unsuspecting moment. When they do, controlling them becomes almost impossible.

We stood in line for a ride, the Patriot, I think. As we waited, I felt sick. I found myself taking deep breaths, working hard to keep it together. I told myself, “You are not being logical. There is nothing to be afraid of.” But I could not seem to accept what I knew to be true.

As we approached our turn, I didn’t know what to do. My thoughts were frantic, not making any sense. Once the gate opened for our family to take our seats, I couldn’t get on. Embarrassed, I said, “I can’t do this,” and walked through to the exit.

My tears could not be held any longer. I was so mortified. My family was having an adventure, and I was missing out. Not wanting the kids to see me so upset, I attempted to pull it together.

As my husband and the boys took off to ride more rides, my sweet Rachel hung out with me. We got snow-cones and sat and talked. She reassured me that it was ok. My embarrassment was not erased, but I knew my family understood.

I did manage to return to that ride before our day was done. Somehow, I pushed through the anxiety and rode the darn thing one time. Once was enough. I certainly cannot say I enjoyed the experience, but there was a brief sense of relief. A few minutes of overcoming the illogical which often accompanies anxiety.

Support of family and friends, medication, recognition, and prayer have helped decrease these feelings and make the remaining ones more manageable. It would be foolish to think I will never experience anxiety again. Since life itself is much like that rollercoaster, it is to be expected.

My goal is to continue learning how to live contently, despite events or circumstances. That includes times of grief and celebration. Recognizing that the rollercoaster does not control my reactions. That is on me. And admitting that I sometimes need a little help is the first step in beating those feelings of anxiety.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Psalm 139:23

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. Philippians 4:11