Lessons in Trout

You know that saying, “Rock bottom teaches us lessons mountain valleys never will?” Well, I like to say trout fishing teaches us lessons bass fishing never will. You feel me?

We got to take the kids camping and fishing this weekend on one of Missouri’s trout streams. Did you know Missouri has a lot of trout areas, including red, white, and blue ribbon areas that support naturally reproducing trout? We’ve got both rainbow and brown trout here! You can also do trout fishing throughout the year, though the trout park seasons are March 1 through October 31, with a catch and release season through the rest of the year.

Trout fishing is different than other types of fishing, and it’s my personal favorite! It’s very fast-paced and a fun challenge. Speaking of, Mo Dept of Conservation and Trout Unlimited put together this Trout Slam. I think it’s still going on, so if you’re into trout fishing, check it out.

The challenge transcends generations. My dad’s dad used to take him when he was little, then they took me when I was little, and now I take my kids.

It is a joy to watch my parents teach and help my kids fish! Jimmy doesn’t fish for too long, but he does enjoy it. Nick probably enjoys it the most, followed by Rami and Lucy.

Something else I love about taking them fishing is the lessons they learn about perseverance, patience, and personal responsibility. Nobody can do it for you. And if you want to catch a fish, you have to try and try until you do. You have to plan and make choices. You have to be patient. You cannot compare yourself to others. It’s all kinds of wisdom wrapped up in one activity.

I’m proud watching them work through these things. They may struggle or get frustrated, but when they are successful, it’s awesome. And when they are not, it’s awesome. It’s awesome to hear them reflect and say, well next time I’ll do this or that. Next time. They don’t give up. They’re ready to go back next time.

Brave Old World

This past weekend, Susan and I went to a Graduation Party for a fellow Doctorate of Education colleague of hers. It was a fancy party, black tie, everyone was dressed up so nice, in sequins and fitted tuxedoes. There was even a live band. We were one of the first ones to arrive- Susan is anything if not prompt.

There was trepidation in the air for us both as we walked from the parking garage to the one, then another elevator in this large venue. We both noticed that some people were wearing masks, as so many have been over the past year, while others looked as if the pandemic had never happened.

As we approached the banquet hall, several thoughts struck me all at once:Susan seemed nervous…

Nervous about her dress… she looked breathtaking!!

Nervous about seeing her cohort, her peers that were all Doctors now… I am so in awe of her!!

Nervous about “Is COVID over now??”… it seemed like a step in that direction.

Nervous about how the evening would go… it turned out to be the exactly what we both needed.

I started to wonder if I would embarrass her… She is a doctor now, she is beautiful, and she is a hell of a better dancer than me. Not to mention, my mind wandered to the fact that I had to buy a new shirt for this event, because I’ve gained weight in this past year and none of my old dress shirts fit me right. I wondered if I was the only person who didn’t rent a tux… I didn’t want to spend the money on a tux for an evening of celebrating someone I only knew through my successful wife. I felt incredibly inadequate.

I was here to support Susan… she had doubted coming and seeing her friends and colleagues all day. All the nervous things I listed above, plus probably 50 more things that I couldn’t even guess. I had asked her earlier: “Will you regret going?” her reply: “No”… “Will you regret not going?”… “Probably.” So here we are, and I have to remind her that she belongs here. That she is radiant and that even thought we are here celebrating her peer, this would also be a celebration of her accomplishment too… they did after all graduate together, and she did it with such style and grace.

I thought, “is this a trial run for her graduation party in a couple of months?” Different kind of party… Susan’s party is scheduled to be casual, with a lot of dancing, and family all surrounding her, honoring her accomplishment with laughter and joy. This party seems formal, and serious, even though we haven’t gotten inside yet, I fear that this will be a some kind of formal lecture, describing in great detail for family that already knows the honoree how he overcame his obstacles, and how he has reached his final destination.

Well, all of those worries and distractions melted away. First, we were greeted with couples photos, and a live band… I didn’t stutter… a live band!!! We haven’t seen a live band in over a year… Our excitement grew. Then she started to see the names of her pals… so many of her doctorate pals were going to be in attendance tonight. Then we saw the photo booth, and this suddenly felt like a wedding or something fancy but fun.

Every five minutes or so, Susan would see a dress she liked, or a pal she hadn’t seen since graduation which was virtual. She actually hadn’t seen some of these future pillars of education in person in over a year. I could tell she really missed them. I could also tell that she was as proud of all of them as I was of her.

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As the night went on, there were speeches, but not the kind of speeches I had dreaded, but speeches that were not about the honoree’s accomplishments but more hopeful about his future. This was barely a night to celebrate what the man had done, it was more of a celebration of anticipation of all the things he would now do with his influence and passion. It was just so hopeful…

and I paused and remembered that this is how I feel about Susan every day. So she has a doctorate… but she is nowhere near being done. She is just getting started. She will change the face of education, one child, one teacher, one family, one school, one district at a time if she has to. She and her cohort are a formidable group, a group of educators who are not willing to settle for the status quo, and are keenly aware of how change comes to be reality.

This was a revelation… coupled with the revelation that everyone was in fact vaccinated and had taken their masks off… The singer of the band got people dancing, and it was the most refreshing thing we’d heard in so long. Good Music, Wonderful People, and a Brave Old World to live in. While these titans of virtue planned a Brave New World for our Kids.

A Walking Stick

I don’t know if you are at all like me, but I sometimes find myself getting stuck thinking about my present stressors or over-focused on the self-improvements that I am still to conquer. Getting stuck in these thoughts is the worst. I get overwhelmed somewhere between what tasks are not done, what new challenge is coming, and how I don’t feel prepared for either because I am not strong enough. Getting stuck SUCKS!!!

My son is 11yo and he was just diagnosed with ADHD last year. He was diagnosed with Inattentive Type, and even though he tries to hide it from his teachers and peers… I sometimes observe him really get stuck. He stands there thinking, and thinking, or not thinking but trying to look like he’s thinking through a problem or a thing. Honestly, it tests my patience. I know you are thinking, give the child a chance… I timed it once and witnessed him stuck for almost ten minutes trying to decide what to next. I nudge him, encourage him, prompt him, but I can’t unstick him. He has to decide it’s time to move on. It’s time to let go of the fear of consequences, let go of the fear of making a mistake, step back from near sighted vision we all have when we are so close to a thing, and look at a bigger picture.

I decided I would try something new with him recently, and you’ll have to stay tuned to find out if it works, but I started to wonder if he would feel encouraged if he remembered where he started and how far he came. If I reminded him of how much his handwriting has improved in the past year, would that remind him that he could achieve his goals and shift his focus on his spelling. If I reminded him that six months ago he struggled to do a 2 minute plank, and now he can do a 6 minute plank; would that encourage him to achieve another physical goal. If I reminded him that last year he used to sit and read at recess, and this year he has a D&D group that he meets up with; would that encourage him to expand his social circle.

Getting stuck SUCKS!!! I know, because I was reminded watching and observing my son that I spent a lifetime before meeting Susan of getting stuck. It wasn’t that long ago that I was trapped in a prison of my own making. One that had walls of depression and handcuffs of self-loathing. And recently, I find that when I’m alone in the house, or not planned or prepared that those feelings of overwhelmed and unfocused rise back up. I have flashes of memories of not leaving my house for days and weeks, and memories of routines that completely lacked joy.

In those moments, I forget the task list, and I forget the choices for what fulfilling thing I can do are… I forget how to be grateful, and I forget how to be thoughtful of my wife and kids… I get stuck. Now before you get out your judging gavel… the difference in the man before you is that I don’t stay there for more than a few minutes now. Just like I have reminders of how lost I once felt, and how paralyzed I once became… they are flashes. Because everyday, I take a very brief but important and powerful look in my rear view mirror. A look at how far I’ve become.

MY secret I use to not getting stuck is that every time I get stuck, I lean on the story of my journey like it is a walking stick. I lean on it to keep me stable, and I use it to make sure that my footing is solid, I lean on it to move the brush out of my line of sight and find the trail for my hike. I have so much gratitude for my hardships, and I have developed real pride in my accomplishments. And I use that gratitude and pride to keep me from getting stuck.

I hope that you can do the same… take a look in the rear mirror and remember where you came from… maybe you are in the hardships of your life, and when you look back in that rearview mirror you see more envious times… you can use that too… Draw from the gratitude of those more pleasant times to give you future goals, and assurances that you can achieve the existence that you want.

I’m not encouraging you to live in your past… I’ve tried that too… I’m encouraging you to use the facts of your journey like a walking stick that gets you to keep moving forward.

Watercolor Wednesday: Kindness and Bookmarks

This week for Watercolor Wednesday, I wanted to tie it into our theme of kindness. So we didn’t just create a picture or do a tutorial. We created a gift!

I had ordered some plastic bookmark sleeves several months ago, anticipating using them for Lucy’s birthday party which I didn’t end up doing. It was twelve dollars for fifty of them. They are marketed also as photo booth picture frame things. Here is an Amazon link for them- this is not an affiliate link- just sharing information.

I then sliced watercolor paper into two inch wide strips to fit inside the sleeves. We taped the papers to the table and let the kids go to town. We made some for ourselves and each other, but we also made a couple to gift to someone whose kindness has helped us or made a difference to us.

We do watercolor Wednesday pretty regularly, almost every week. It is met with different reactions by each kid. Nick likes art, and some weeks if he likes the project, he really takes his time to do it. Other weeks, he has a list of a million things to do, and he will rush to the next thing quickly. Some weeks he chooses not to participate, which is okay too! Lucy loves art. She recently wrote a book at school about how art makes her smile and how she loves to do art. So she is fully invested and fully CONFIDENT! Jimmy loves to do it, loves to do it his way, can’t get enough, and is super proud of his masterpieces. Rami loves doing the art, and often has really great ideas. He is meticulous. He really enjoys the art, but he can get caught up in perfectionism and disregard the process. So he always learns really great lessons through the process.

I also gave the kids oil pastels to use too, thinking they might do some oil pastel/watercolor resist work. Lucy did a little bit, and I did one too. She loves the oil pastels. The I love Rory bookmark for her firends is done in oil pastels.

I made tassels out of embroidery floss. Tedious! But it really makes them look legit, and I got faster at it the more I did. We made a lot of bookmarks! 😀

I chose to give my bookmark to someone I work with who, I believe, is a very strong person and who inspires me. I put a French quote on the back that says, “Au milieu de l’hiver, j’ai decouvert en moi un invincible ete.” by Albert Camus. (My apologies that I do not know how to add accent marks on here.) Anyway, it means, In the midst of winter, I discovered in myself an invincible summer. This is one of my favorite quotes, one that I have represented on my body in a tattoo. During this difficult year, this person has brought that invincible summer. It hasn’t been easy, and there have definitely been mountain valleys on the journey. But I wanted to acknowledge her strength through this bookmark, which I did oil pastel resist under watercolor.

Teacher Appreciation Day

Last night was Family Home Evening. Our theme was kindness and appreciation. This is an ongoing theme. In fact, our theme for the year is “Keep kind in mind always.” So in honor of our dedicated and amazing teachers, we put together our teacher appreciation cards and gifts!

Nick led the lesson, and he did a great job. Everyone shared kind things they had done and seen that day. We talked about our teachers and what we appreciate and love about them. I am so grateful for our kids’ teachers, and I am just continually in awe of them and impressed with all they do to support our kids.

I spent many years as a teacher, and it was some of the best times of my life. But it was not easy! It was something truly unique and magical and for which I am so, so very grateful. I know how it feels to be a teacher, and I have so much respect and appreciation for these people. I want my kids to respect and appreciate them as well. Nick has told me that he would like to be a science teacher (then go on to be a principal and superintendent as well-hah!), and it makes me proud to hear him say that. No matter what he becomes, I love that he considers that now at this age. 🙂

We are doing kindness as a theme for the month of May. We attempted this in February, but I got Covid and the kids got quarantined, so things got somewhat derailed. I will try to highlight some of our kindness activities this month! And big ups to all the teachers out there who deserve the utmost appreciation this week and every week- thank you for ALL you do!