Sunday, January 6, 2019

A Metaphor

January 6, 2018

I went bowling today for the first time in years.  It was a little intimidating, since I know my bowling skills are, shall we say, weak at best.  But I decided I was going to go into it not worrying about what others thought of me; I wanted to just have fun, try to be myself, and not be concerned that I was not exactly in my comfort zone or operating within my natural skill set.  This attitude did not in any way improve my bowling score, but it did allow me to laugh at myself (and my bowling partner), and relax and goof around.  We had a great time.  There's a good lesson there:  attitude and choosing one's mindset ahead of any activity has a pretty significant impact on how you're experiencing life.  Since I'm moving into some new territory as we kick off the new year, I'm going to endeavor to keep that at the forefront of my mind moving forward.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Productivity

January 5, 2019

This Christmas break was marked by quite a bit of productivity and a sense of a fresh start.  Sometimes when you are sitting in a place of comfort, a complacency can set in and make it difficult to continue with a sense of forward momentum.  However, this past two weeks has been marked by a significant change in the household, which was marked by lots of furniture movement, lots of cleaning, lots of sorting and moving remaining items, and either donating or throwing out quite a bit of accumulated stuff that's been overtaking our house over the past few years.  There's lots and lots to still do, and of course as I moved furniture and rearranged the living areas I found that everywhere I looked there was more to dust, vacuum, sort, and clean, but I feel like a forward moment has taken hold and has enabled me to create a much more comfortable, inviting, and peaceful living space.  The goal is to keep it up as I head back to work next week!

Friday, January 4, 2019

Just Like Yesterday

January 4, 2019





Sometimes months will pass between the times some of us see each other.  For some of us, there have been years that stretched between our gatherings.  But each and every time I see any of these women--those of us who started out teaching together years and years ago, when we were baby-faced novice teachers--we reconnect like we saw each other only yesterday.  Time only brings us closer together, and that is truly a measure of a beautiful friendship.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Lean On Me

January 3, 2019

When we were young, we looked to the adults around us and on the whole, we probably thought they mostly had things figured out.  There was business to handle, and handle it they did.  There might have been notable exceptions to the adults we thought had it all figured out--the weird uncle or the slightly crazy second cousin, or even the disheveled and perpetually confused looking high school teacher--but on the whole, we believed the adults knew what was going on and how to approach any circumstance in life.

Fast forward to now. I am--we are--the adults.  And my goodness, we do NOT have it all figured out.  We constantly question each decision we make, each action we taking moving forward.  What if it's the wrong thing to do? What if my decision leads to consequences I didn't foresee?  The reality is, we simply do not know.  The secret of life?  We're all out here doing the best we can, making our best guess as to how it's all going to turn out.  The secret of life is that no one really knows the secret of life.

So what do we do?  If we're lucky, as I have been, we cultivate good, solid friendships.  We seek counsel and solace from those friends; we seek commiseration and celebration with souls who wish the best for us and, like us, are making their best guesses about how to proceed from day to day, and year to year.  When you cultivate friends like that, you can roll around ideas, test out theories, offer suggestions, learn from one another's experiences, knowing that no two experiences are alike, but might have common ground.  You offer to one another a shoulder to cry on, a fresh perspective, a belly laugh when levity is warranted or needed, a boost of confidence, or a gentle kick in the rear when one is stuck in static mode.  We offer an ear; we offer community.

I've got a few circles of friends, and within those circles, we have collectively faced many challenges and joys over the years:  marriages, children, diseases and catastrophic illnesses, accidents, births, deaths, new careers or loss of careers, infidelity, new homes, divorces, bankruptcy, mental health issues, and addiction, just to name a few.  And as fate would have it, we often take turns with our burdens, so that some of us are strong when others need buoyed.  Sometimes I am able to help carry someone else's burden, and sometimes it is I who needs a hand.  But the hands are always there--hands to hold, to reach out for a hug, and to gently touch to help us remember that though none of us has it all figured out, we aren't all on our own making guesses in the dark.  We don't have it all figured out--no one does--but we aren't alone, and sometimes, that makes all the difference.


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Rise

January 2, 2019

There are quite a few people I know who choose a focus word as a New Year resolution of sorts--one they can center in on as a priority in their life for the upcoming year.  I like the idea.  I've never done it before, but I'd like to think it could help direct my energy moving forward.  (I'm not going to lie; there's also a great likelihood that I'll forget it, in which case, no harm, no foul, right?)  Maybe I'll write it on my mirror to remember.  Anyway, I believe I shall claim the word "RISE" my word for 2019.  As in, "Rise above".  As in "Rise from the ashes like a phoenix".  As in, "Rise and look ahead to all the possibility before you." As in "Rise, Baby--I can't be kept down.  You wanna throw a wrench in the works and bring me to my knees?  Bring it! I'll rise higher than I ever thought I could soar, bigger and brighter and better-- a beacon in the night shining down."  That kind of rise.

RISE.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

New Year, Looking Forward

January 1, 2019

The new year traditionally is marked by a pause for reflection, resolution, and recommitment to those things we feel represent growth and truth for us.  This year, more than most, I have been confronted with that reflection rather harshly.  Having seen one particular path for my future--one I was happy with and looking forward to the continued adventure --the path suddenly and violently veered off into the unknown.  To diverge from someone who is an intricate part of one's world, be it a lover, a friend, or even a family member, is a difficult, messy business.  To discover a betrayal of faith and trust requires deep soul searching in order to progress and to look forward, instead of being stuck looking back.

There is a strange sense in this aftermath of needing to look backward at the what-ifs and the whys of the situation.  The how-can-it-be-so-easy-for someone-to-do-this-to-me? kind of feeling.  The what-could-I-have-done-differently? And sometimes that answer to that is simply to be someone you're not, though that clearly can't be the right answer. But let me tell you, that's a difficult train of thought to escape.  Because after all, if one is loveable, how can someone treat them so unlovingly?  It's a trap, though, because although we all have flaws, and both people can contribute to the unraveling of what was once steadfast, in the end, we cannot and should not control each other's emotions or actions.  One person's betrayal is exactly that- that person's betrayal, and not a commentary on the loveability or unloveability of the other person.  That is their choice alone to own. I could say that they will regret it, I could even wish it.  But I don't know that to be true.  Perhaps it will lead to something even better, and if this is truly a person I love, wouldn't I wish happiness for them?  And if they regret it, do I want to 'earn' connection through regret?  No, I want connection with someone who chooses me in joy, not out of regret.  We all deserve to be chosen, to be with people who count themselves fortunate in our company.  One can be mired in the past, attempting to regain the path once traveled, but that path has been erased; it no longer exists in that form.  That does not mean that a new path can't be forged eventually, but it can't be found by looking back; only by looking forward.

So forward we go.  And in looking forward, the most important thing to remember is that if one's desire to remain connected changes, that is their reality.  And they are entitled to that reality.  It just doesn't get to define me and my reality.  I cannot be mad at them, and I can't fault them for their feelings.  However, I can't let it make me question my own worth, my own value, my own loveability.  I have said my mantra this year will be "I am enough" in response to being told that who I am isn't enough.  (And just because I was told this doesn't mean I have to wear it as a badge.)  In rethinking and reflecting, though, I have to say my mantra should be "Good enough isn't good enough".  I cannot be content to try to be "good enough" for others or myself; I need to find people who recognize my value and aren't settling for "good enough".  Certainly I am looking to better myself, as many of us do, especially at the time of year, but I deserve to surround myself with people who don't make me feel as if I need to prove that I am worthy.  And if that path leads me to new paths I never expected to travel, and if that path leads me so far away from my original path that the roads don't cross again, that will have to be good enough.  If I spend my time looking forward, instead of back, focusing on my own definition of self rather than seeing my worth through another's eyes, then perhaps my occasional glaces looking back with be ones filled with fondness for a distant time that once was, rather than a path of loss and regret.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Graduation Time


June 6, 2018

Well, my friends—it’s almost time.  The night where you get to celebrate all that you have achieved is just around the corner.  I am so proud of your accomplishments—some of you have worked very, very hard to make it to this night and have overcome personal, emotional, and academic hardships to earn that little piece of paper that can open up new avenues and opportunities for you.  Well done! You’ve made it!
              Graduation can be an emotional night.  Some of you might be a little nostalgic and sad about losing the comfort and familiarity of home, school, and family as you head off on to new adventures.  Some of you will be relieved that you actually made it.  Some of you may feel elation that you are done with the rules and dress code of high school.  (I’ll leave you to the fantasy that there are no rules you have to follow once you leave high school and your parents’ homes, at least for awhile.  You’ll find out the truth soon enough.)  Some of you might even feel anxious or nervous about what the future holds.  Most of you will feel proud of yourselves.  All of these emotions are real, valid, and totally normal.  Just know that while you are feeling all of these things, your parents are, too. Whether you are the first one in the family graduating, the middle child, or the baby of the family, please recognize that this is a milestone for your mamas and your daddies, too. They are thrilled, stressed, nostalgic, anxious, and hopeful, just like you are.  So when Dad wants to talk to you for the 30th time about how to be safe when you’re away at college, don’t just sigh and say, “I KNOW!”  He’s not just telling you he wants you to be safe; he’s telling you he loves you.  Let him.  When your mom wants you to smile for just one more picture (or 20), do it for her.  Do it with gratitude, and not eye-rolling, because when she says, “Say cheese!” she’s actually saying, “I am going to miss these times, these moments with you.”  Let her know that you hear what she’s saying, even when she’s not saying it.  Let her know you’ll miss those moments too.  This moment in time is yours, but it’s also theirs.  Share it and enjoy it together.
              So here you are, on the verge of your new adventure, with your family and friends surrounding you and cheering you on.  Some of these people you’ll be sitting in the stands with, you might remain friends with for the rest of your life.  Some of them you might see now and again, but you’ll eventually drift apart.  And for some of them, graduation night might be the last time you ever see them.  High school is like that, just like the rest of your life.  People will come in and out of your life, some only briefly, and some for long and enduring stretches of your journey.  Regardless, each person has an impact on those they encounter.  Be thankful for the mark your classmates have had on you; hope that you have been a blessing to those you have touched.  It’s really the most important life lesson, at the end of the day—one that isn’t found in a textbook or on a test.  Be a blessing to the people you encounter, whether it be for a day or for a lifetime.  Your life’s mission is to find the best way for you to do that.
              And speaking of life’s mission, you all have one.  I don’t know what your mission is, and maybe you don’t yet either.  That’s okay.  Just look for it.  Be mindful of it.  Find your passion and follow it—that’s a great place to start looking.  And when you do find your mission, make it your life’s work to meet it head on, with intention and care.  Seek positive mentors.  Be a positive mentor to those who follow behind you.  Look for ways to leave your world and the people you encounter better than they were when you first arrived.  Let that be your legacy and your mark.  Will you make mistakes and wrong turns?  Of course you will!  Will you learn and grow from them?  That, my friends, is entirely up to you.  I certainly hope so.  Mistakes do not define success; reaction to mistakes does.  How will you respond?

              So here I am, reflecting on the mark you have already made on me, as I think about all the ways you will move out into the rest of your tomorrows.  Know that all of you, from the most gregarious to the most introverted, have made my year a special one.  I always marvel that I have future businessmen, politicians, amazing stay-at-home moms and dads, teachers, mechanics, engineers, pastors, musicians, and farmers among my students.  It’s a privilege to get to teach students who will grow up and be the decision-makers of the future.  It’s the reason I keep teaching. YOU are the reason I keep teaching.  So thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for another wonderful year.  I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you.  Good luck, much love, and best wishes on all your future endeavors.

                                                                                                                   Mama Lutjens

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Designing New Promo Materials for Cut Shot

January 28, 2018


The boys are doing a lot more gigging these days, so I'm updating their social media, banners, and merchandise.  I did the original banners and t-shirts, but it's been a long time and I think it's time for a refresh.  I'm still pricing and looking at the design tools at a few sites, but this is the first look at a few designs we're kicking around for banners this time around.


Thursday, January 25, 2018

We're In the News Again

January 25, 2018

We started the day with an unplanned faculty meeting.  Our school's in the news again, and it's not good.  Our new principal has had to deal with a lot of negative press this year, and has had to put out a lot of fires.  Personally, I think he's doing a great job with communication and trying to stay ahead of the situations that affect us all.  He probably knew this was part of the job, at least intellectually so, but perhaps didn't plan on it being a non-stop barrage this year.  It isn't every year--this is just his lucky year.  Today's issue had to do with a negative op-ed published in the local paper about a couple of our former students who were accused of sexual assault at an off-campus party two years ago when they were minors.  Now that the boys are no longer minors (and no longer attend our school), there is a civil suit against them.  Since they are now adults, their names and details of the civil suit are being publicly released.  This is terrible; if the boys are guilty, then I fully support the consequences they reap.  However, the op-ed is calling out the school and the boys' coaches for not kicking them off of their team and out of school.  The frustrating thing is that the court cases of minors are often sealed, as was the case here.  The public, and the school administration, are not privy to the information in those sealed documents.  How can the school or district be called on to take action based on allegations when they do not have the jurisdiction to conduct the investigation or to be given a judge's final verdict? It's a difficult position schools are in when they are called upon to protect the privacy of students, are not given access to criminal cases for students in their charge, and are charged with protecting and supporting victims of those crimes.  As is often the case with these emotionally charged issues the op-ed chose details that were purposefully incendiary and pointedly left out other details--and it worked.  Our coaches and administrators are getting hateful mail and angry responses.  Our principal had to call our meeting in order to share with us what he is allowed to share legally, and that he and the district administrators are working with police in this current case, and that they are supporting the coaches who followed the protocols in place for the aspects of the case over which they had jurisdiction and knowledge.  I have seen numerous posts on social media, many of them reposted by former students and community members.  And while I understand the frustration about these allegations, I really don't think most people understand a lot of the parameters with which our administrators have to work--and that they don't always have all the information that people think they have in hindsight.  Are there mistakes?  Are there people who sometimes drop the ball in these cases? Sure.  But do I believe that at least in this case, there was an appropriate protocol followed with the knowledge the school and the coaches had.


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Unexpected Visit to the Dentist

January 24, 2018

If you've ever had a bad experience at the dentist--I mean a horror movie torture device kind of bad experience, not your run-of-the-mill dentist experience--then you probably have an aversion to the dentist's office.  If you've had more than one excruciating, heart-pounding, sweat-inducing, nightmarish dental procedures, then you're like me, and a dental emergency can send you into a frightening emotional tailspin.  (Okay, no lie--my heart rate has gone up just typing these words!)

So I'm having a late night snack last night. (Don't judge--yes, I know that's not especially in keeping with my goal of losing weight, but just wait. Karma got me for it, so I guess that will teach me!)  I take a bite of a potato chip and CRACK! As I bit down I heard and felt my crown on one of my front teeth crack and break off.  Like it broke off a third of the crown.  It wasn't one of my very front top two, but it was one right next to those, so, you know, it's pretty prominent.  Luckily I didn't feel any pain, but I didn't want to stand up in front of my classes and teach all day with a third of one of my very visible teeth missing.  Knowing I'd have to go to the dentist to get it fixed pretty immediately sent me into the aforementioned tailspin, and I slept terribly all night.

As soon as I got to work this morning, I called my dentist VOLUNTARILY and asked to come in, and they said they could squeeze me in for an evaluation right after I got out of school.  (I was self-conscious about my tooth all day in class.)  The evaluation part was important, because I usually need to steel myself for a few days before an actual dental procedure, so I felt okay about going in. Once I got there and they examined the tooth and took x-rays, they said they'd need to take off the remainder of the crown, reset it, and order a new one.  They said they had the ability to do it right then, since I was there and they had had a cancellation.  No prep time, no steeling myself.  Spinning, spinning, heart rate running out of control...but it had to be done.  There was no escaping. I gave her the okay, but she asked me several times if I was sure I was okay.  These folks there know me.  I'm sure they've got warning signs all over my chart, so they're extra watchful of my body language.  It belies everything.  I try to pretend to be calm and collected, but they all know better.  I was going to need numbing shots with no preparedness ahead of time (I'm seriously needle-phobic, y'all), but they treated me with kid gloves and were generous with the numbing gel before the shots, so that I wouldn't go haywire.  One I got through that, then came the incredibly loud, super high pitched and obnoxious sound of the drill grinding out my tooth and setting my nerves on edge, making me tense every muscle in my body.  It's really one of the very worst sounds in the world.  I imagine these drills are in pretty plentiful supply in the torture chambers of hell, if only for the sound alone!  (I really should allow time for a massage any time I have to go to the dentist, by the way.  I always am in need of something to unknot my knots after the dentist.)  I dug my nails into the skin on the palms of my hands every time the grinding started up again, trying to concentrate on maintaining a regular and slow breathing pattern until it stopped.

Do I sound like a baby?  Like a whiner?  I don't care.  That's what my experience is whenever I go to the dentist.  They finally finished drilling and got the imprints for my new crown.  The rest of the process was easy, and the heart and breathing returned somewhat to normal.  They set me up an appointment for two weeks from now (I have to come back!) to replace the temporary with the new and permanent crown.  God willing, there will be no drills involved, so that's good.  So that's how I spent my afternoon today--at one of my least favorite places in the world.  And believe it or not, today was one of the easier days I've had at that office.  I'm sure they just love me there and can't wait until my return in two weeks.