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Our nightly routine is a well-oiled (sometimes squeaky and tempermental) machine.

5:30 Dinner

6:00 Bath

6:30 Bed

Tonight, my machine turned into a boat–two in fact.  As I bounced from room to room picking up discarded socks, toys, and tossing dishes into the sink, I happened to pause in time to witness a moment between my two children as they made boats out of my throw pillows (sigh) and raced across the hardwood floor.  What caught my attention was not the imminent threat of a boo-boo, but Will’s tone towards his little sister, Waverly.  His “boat” had come to be stuck between the front door and his sister’s “island.”

“Can I go around you, Waverly?” Will gently asked, stopping the careening of his crazy boat at the edge of her blanket.

“Um…Mes [“yes” in 3 year-old speak].”

“It might bend this corner a little bit, but I’ll fix it, K?” He promised.

“Okay, Bubba….good job, Bubba!  That’s it!”

Once Will’s aircarft carrier was safely around his sister, I sank down on the chair and started to breath again.  I watched their regatta for twenty more minutes.

Scenes like this happen all of the time but with very different endings in my house.  I’m usually somewhere in the background, halfway listening for the great War-of-the-Siblings to ensue.  Tonight, I paused and held my breath, taking small sips of air until something new and unexpected occurred.

My word this year is possibility as I explained in an earlier post.  I’m working on saying “no” and turning off the “shoulds.”  The “shoulds” were loud tonight as they are most Sunday nights (should be doing laundry, vacuuming, getting pajamas ready for bath, adding to the grocery list before you forget), but I told them “No, you can wait” tonight and held my breath.

A couple of weeks ago, my amazing yoga instructor began class wtih a breating exercise–a critical segment of yoga practice.  Before we ready our bodies for practice, we ready our minds and then our lungs.  This time however, she instructed us to hold our breath at the top of the inhale for six seconds and then to take a few small sips of air, reaching the deepest pockets of our lungs as we filled them with possibility before exhaling to a count of six.  The rhthym goes something like this:

Inhale slowly through the nose 1-2-3-4-5-6

Pause 1-2-3-4-5-6

Sip. Sip. Sip

Exhale 6-5-4-3-2-1

In the pauses between breath, we open our minds, lungs, and bodies to possibilities in our yoga practice–an idea I brought into my practice that day and my daily routine with my family and my work these days since.

I’m one of those women who needs to fill the space.  In my eight-hour work day, I work 540 full minutes.  I eat while I’m prepping for the next class or creating a display, answer emails between classes, and pause only long enough to add to or cross off an item on the to-do list.  I know I ran my class this way”  “bell-to-bell,” they say.  “Students should be tired when they leave you,” they say.  “No down-time” they say…

Without the pauses, how are we making room for possibility?

This past week I attended TCEA.  My first session on transforming high schools was led by Dr. Robert (Bob) Dillon @IdeaGuy42 who admonished us to consider how we are humanizing the learning experiences in our schools for both students and adults.  “Small moments have big purposes,” Dr. Dillon reminded us.

And so, tomorrow is the start of a new week, full of possibility.

To the leaders:
Before that first staff meeting, conference call, or email, how will you set the example for those who follow you to set an intention, breath, and pause for possibility?

To the teachers:
How will you plan the small moments in your class for students to be mindful of their personal goals as well as learning goals, to pause and consider, reconsider, and then reflect on how their learning is impacting them?

To the individual human being:

Don’t let the boats go unnoticed.
Inhale 1-2-3-4-5-6

Pause 1-2-3-4-5-6

Sip [possibility].

Exhale 6-5-4-3-2-1


Covey and Community: Being mindful of all areas of our lives as learners and educators

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I’ve been (shamefully) silent in the blogosphere and Twitter landscape since May.  I wish I had a clever, original rationale for my sudden silence.  I don’t.  So, I’m not going to even pretend.

What have you been doing all this time, Audrey?  Well…let’s try one of these on for size:

I’ve been _________(fill in the blank with your favorite).

“On sabbatical”
“Renewing my energies”
“Investing in ‘me'”
“Cultivating my inner goddess”
“re-inventing myself”
“re-directing the inner-eye”
“drinking pina coladas on a pristine Caribbean beach”

Eh,  that’s not quite it.  Instead, let’s borrow a turn of phrase from Stephen Covey that might shed some light on my life in the cyber shadows these last few months.

Sharpening the saw.

Just remember that every day provides a new opportunity for renewal–a new opportunity to recharge yourself instead of hitting the wall. All it takes is the desire, knowledge, and skill. ~Stephen Covey

It’s all about maintaining balance.  My unexpected and thrilling foray back into graduate school to complete the school library certification program left me somewhat imbalanced (i.e., tired, exhausted, stretched-thin, mentally full…and a little paunchy around the middle from too many late-night chocolate binges to fuel the demands of an online student).  I’ve neglected many other areas of my life while my learning self was in full force and often in over-drive.  My physical, emotional, and social selves were put on the back burner.  But, self-preservation seemed to kick in the moment that summer school ended–yes, I did that, too–and I focused on how to “sharpen my saw” so that I could continue to grow and change.

Physical.  Sleep.  I slept this summer.  It’s so simple, but when my two-year-old napped, I napped!  And, it worked.  I started over for the *cough* fourth time on my couch to 5k app.  I got out and walked/ran with my son in tow, enjoying those few precious moments early in the morning when you can not only bare but enjoy being outside in Texas during the summer.  We explored; we sweated; we got tan at the pool; we watched the deep blue expanse of sky turn shades of gray, white, and green while afternoon storms rolled through.  I dusted off my yoga mat and enjoyed quiet, peaceful practices in my living room on Sunday mornings.  Activity-induced endorphines coursed through my blood stream…and it worked!  I returned to a vegetarian profile and saw my complexion clear and my mid-section become less like a pudgy hill and more like a gently rolling plain.

Wow..come to think of it.  While I did “nothing.”  I did everything for my physical well-being.

Social/Emotional.  I made sure to carve out time and space to just be with friends.  Whether trekking to the zoo with our toddlers or splashing at the pool, I enjoyed having no expectations for our friendship other to enjoy.  One of my favorite things to do is to host parties, and this summer I hosted a family-friendly baby shower for a dear and lovely friend and her husband.  Having our friends together in one place to celebrate this next phase of their lives reinforced for me how much I value the women in my life and their families. They are my family in every sense of the word.

Without the relationships in my life that sustain me, why would I do what I do?  Who would I share the experiences they bring with?  Who would be the witness to my life?

Mental.  I was in graduate school…nuff said. But, in addition to being a learner, I also had the pleasure of being a teacher to 20 teenagers during our summer intervention program.  It’s been three years now since I’ve had my own classroom.  The sheer joy of watching these students discover themselves as writers was enough to energize me for the next year.  I was reminded of many things one of which was the importance and value of talking to students about their writing.  Simple. Sweet. I also allowed myself the time to catch up on my TBR stack–I’ll be showcasing my favorite reads from the summer pile in a couple of days on IMWAYR!

By cultivating the parts of my academic self that I was passionate about (reading young adult literature, teaching writing, writing for pleasure), I remembered the importance of time, choice, and authenticity for all learners.

Spiritual. This summer I took time to heal some fresh (and old) physical and spiritual wounds.  Watching my son during his first trip to Colorado, taking our first (turbulent) horseback ride, breathing in the thin, sage-scented mountain air, and reflecting on the past year free of the distractions and demands that often come across my desk and inbox, allowed me to greet myself.  In the quieter moments on that trip, I wrapped my arms around her congratulating her on a job well done, forgiving her for those things that could have been done better, and letting her grieve for those things that she had lost.  Physically removing myself from familiar surroundings allowed me to spiritually forgive myself and others who I felt disappointed or rejected me, allowing for the room to renew those bonds.

Here’s my challenge to myself (and you should you choose to accept).  Find moments to sharpen the saw everyday.  You may not have the opportunity to attend to all four areas of your life, but make it a goal to attend to at least one each day.

Take it a step further–be mindful of when and why your students begin to check-out.  For both teachers and students this often happens around the holidays and into the Winter months.  When building your communities this first part of the year build in practices that are mindful of the areas of our lives and students’ lives to counter the burn-out before it begins.

How do you tend to these areas of your life?  What routines and practices are part of your communities that allow students to attend to these areas in their own lives?

Photo credit: <a href=””>papalars</a&gt; / <a href=””>Foter</a&gt; / <a href=””>CC BY-ND</a>