power of framing words

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

Who thought of that ridiculous saying?  Words can absolutely hurt.  Sometimes, words hurt the most.  I’m going to share my experience I recently had on learning the lesson of the power of framing words.  Let me start off by saying, I know that the people I will write about, 100% care about me and meant well with their comments.  I recognize that and am not doubting it whatsoever.  I’ve had time to reflect on various situations and have been able to shift my thinking.  This post will be honest and raw, but typing my thoughts always serves a therapeutic purpose, and maybe I can shed light on the power of framing words to others.

Also, let me provide a bit of context before I begin.  I’ve been at the same school for eight years, and I absolutely LOVE it.  I taught first grade my first year in a different district, then third grade for four years and fourth grade for four years.  I was an early childhood major in college (and also got my elementary certification).  While the little ones have always been my passion, I grew to love my third and fourth graders.  I was continually amazed by their sophisticated thinking, the growth they made, and the level of rigor they were completing.  People outside my school often asked me if I’d ever consider changing schools to be able to work with younger kids again.  Nope.  It was never a second thought.  The school where I teach is the best, from the administration to the coaches to the staff to the parents to the students and to the community.  Many of my coworkers have become some of my best friends.  Alright, so what in the world prompted this?

first day of school in 2013

Last Friday I was called into the principal’s office.  As I’m sure it is with anyone walking into their boss’s office, I was nervous as I did not know what to expect.  “I have to move you to first grade next year,” she said.  Instantly, my eyes welled up with tears.  My mind began racing with the first thoughts coming to mind were that I was being separated from my team.  The last several years my team was the best.  Literally.  We worked seamlessly with each other and tirelessly for the growth of our students.  We shared the responsibility, trusted each other, and loved each student as our own, no matter whose class they were in.  We celebrated together and problem solved together.  We were a team through and through.  We knew it wouldn’t last forever, but I was so shocked that this was happening without any warning and that I was going to be the one leaving.

After I left the office, it was time for me to pick up my students from music.  We went back to my room, I shut the door, and I got my students started on some work.  Then, I checked my email.  Official staffing was released which meant everyone knew I was moving to first grade (along with several other changes in the building).  Two of my wonderful teammates came to my room, gave me hugs, asked if I was mad and sad, and what I was feeling.  Each time, the tears flowed and I became upset all over again. My mind was racing as I was trying to process everything.  Over the next 24 hours, I received emails, texts, and calls “checking on me,” asking if I was ok, or how I was doing.

At some point in time, I really started reflecting on what was happening.  For the past eight years, whenever I filled out my grade request change sheet, I always put my current grade as first choice, and then first grade as my second choice.  I LOVED teaching first grade my first year of teaching, so why was I so upset?  As I tried to find the root cause, I became more confused.  I loved teaching the little ones.  I was excited about this opportunity.  But because everyone assumed I would be upset, distraught, and unhappy, those types of feelings that were lingering inside me were automatically propelled because everyone expected me to feel that way.

That’s not to say I wasn’t feeling any of those things initially.  There were many factors contributing including the process, changing friendships, and the worry of learning entirely new curriculum.  But those concerns should have been secondary to my excitement.  Then, I became angry.  Why were people assuming such negative things with my grade level change?  Yes, leaving my team is and will be the hardest part, and I’m definitely not happy about that.  I know there will be other challenging times throughout the rest of the year knowing I will be leaving the team.  But really, there are many positives to the situation.  My post is not really about the change in grade levels.  Change is always hard.  My post is about the lesson in the power of framing words.  I began to wonder if instead of people asking how upset I was, if they framed their words differently, in a more positive manner, would that affect how I felt about the situation?  I fully realize that I should be in control of my own thoughts and feelings without letting others affect me so.  I’m also not saying I felt that way solely because of people’s initial reaction.  Some of those feelings were inside, but joy should have been the primary emotion.

I called my aunt who is a retired teacher and spent a great majority of her time in first grade specifically.  Without providing any context to what had happened, I merely told her I would be moving to first grade next year.  “Congratulations!” was her immediate response.  Wow, what a difference that made!  When I told a few other non-school people, they all had similar reactions as they’ve known about my desire and passion to teach younger kids.  Receiving the happy and excited responses helped confirm within myself that I, too, really was excited about this opportunity.  The more positive people were with their reactions, the more positive I felt about the change.

So here’s the lesson: we need to be careful with our assumptions and how we frame our words.  Even though our words can have the most empathetic intentions, how we frame them can really trigger how a person feels.  I know they did for me.  Again, I know the words my dear friends asked me came from a place of compassion, care, and concern.  I was surprised with how much they affected me when, really, I just need some time to process and reflect on an individual basis first.

I don’t think there is / was one right way for how to handle the situation all around.  I think we’re all doing our best, and like everything else in life, it can be looked at as a learning experience.  I don’t want to dwell on the negative pieces.  Frankly, I don’t want to talk about anything negative today.  I want to be excited about this change and look forward to the cuties I’ll have in my classroom next year.  And I will definitely try be more thoughtful and positive with how I phrase questions, words of encouragement, or pieces of advice in the future, especially with sensitive topics.

Were you ever surprised with the way someone else’s words affected you?

Who is there for you?

Whenever I go through certain situations, good or bad, in life, I am reminded of who is there for me.  The answer is always FAMILY.  Don’t get me wrong – I have the most amazing friends a girl could ask for.  Friends who will be there in the drop of a hat, friends who text and call to check in or just say hi, friends who are shoulders to cry on, smiles to laugh with, and hearts to celebrate with.  But there’s just something about family that provides an irreplaceable bond and everlasting love.

Who are the key members of my family, my roots that keep me grounded:

My mom, William’s Yaya.

yaya read books dec15

My mom is an incredible woman, everyone would agree.  She’s selfless, caring, wise, and always there.  It’s no wonder William asks for Yaya 5,000 times a day upon waking up every morning and before bed each night.  “Yaya?” he says.  “Yaya says, ‘Good morning!'” I tell him.  “Or, ‘Yaya says it’s time to go night night. All the little boys and girls are going to sleep now,'” just as she would say to him.  Yaya reads William books while he sits at the big boy table to eat.  She gets him to eat more than I ever can. We both smile and our hearts are full every time we’re with her.  All kids who know Yaya, whether they’re family or not, call her Yaya.

My sister.

steph dec15

Oh Stephanie. You can’t choose your family, but if I could I’d definitely choose you as my sister!  Stephanie has been my constant cheerleader, my best friend, my stylist, William’s second mom, my photographer, and I could go on and on. There’s truly no bond like sisterhood and she’s definitely the best.

My dad, William’s Pops.

pops guitar dec15

Smartest man I know.  Pops knows everything and can do anything.  He’s always right, never wrong (this is where I get it from!).  He’s been playing his guitar for William since the beginning, and William has learned a love of music from him.  I hope William grows up to be just like Pops!

My grandma, Mama, William’s great grandmother.

yaya mama pooltable dec15

I’ve always had a special bond with Mama. She was the first person I told I was pregnant. She can keep secrets better than anyone I know. Grandparents and great grandparents allow children to do things that normally would not be ok.  Putting William on the pool table is one of them.  Mama taught William how to roll balls on the pool table (as opposed to throw them as he does with every other object) among many other things.  When we go over to their house, getting on the pool table is the first thing William wants to do.  As you can see from his priceless reaction, it clearly makes him very, very happy.

My grandpa, Papa, William’s great grandfather.

papa first pool lesson dec15

William got his first pool lesson from Papa last week.  Papa has taught all his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren about pool and many, many other sports. While Mama lets William sit on the pool table, Papa has him stand on the bench he built over 30 years ago for small little ones to be able to reach. He shows William how to put two hands on the pool stick, aim, and hit the balls.  Everyone is continually impressed with William’s athletic ability and, undoubtedly, it comes from Papa.

Family is everything.

kootman

Just some of my mom’s side of the family.  Family get togethers are so special, and even more so as we get older and bring our own children.

My grandpa, Poppy, William’s great grandfather.

poppys 87 birthday

Poppy just celebrated his 87th birthday!  He’s the youngest and best looking 87 year old, eh?  I am proud to have William named after Poppy and carry on the “Williams” name.  As evidenced by the bottom photo, Poppy with his three sons, he’s instilled a love of family into his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.  I know my siblings will have this same strong bond when we reach my dad and his brothers’ ages.

Audrey, my niece.

audrey couch dec15

Audrey is William’s youngest mother.  He is “her baby.”  She taught him pretend play and how to use his imagination.  In this photo, they were pretending to go to sleep.  Jacob wanted in on this photo, and she snapped, “No! William is MY baby!”  “You go up and I’ll go down,” she told William when posing for the picture.  She wants William all to herself and is the kindest and most gentle with him that I’ve ever seen her.  She’s four going on 14, so this is kind of a big deal.

Me & William

nap dec15

William has taught me so many lessons during his 21 months of being here.  He’s taught me unconditional love and has brought me more joy and happiness than I ever knew possible. He’s taught me to slow down and cherish every moment in life.  There’s nothing more important than love and everything else can wait.

bath nye15

Pure happiness. My little man. My everything.

Some days around here can be challenging, I’m not going to lie.  But William reminds me that everything happens for a reason. I need that reminder and I need to believe that.  It will all work out exactly how it’s supposed to. Regardless how it ends, my family is / has / will always be there.  Thank you, family.

Who is there for you?

Being a single mom is HARD

Here it is.  The post so many of you have been waiting for.  The answer to many comments and emails I’ve been receiving for over a year now.  Yes, I’m divorced.  No, it was not my choice.  I chose to keep it private for so long for a variety of reasons, which I’m sure you can imagine.  As I’m moving forward with my life, I do want to be open and honest with you.  I know I’ve alluded to many challenges over the past year or so, and obviously this is what it is.  When William was just five months old, his dad left us.  I won’t go into details, but it was a heartbreaking experience.  It’s neither here nor there anymore, as there was and is nothing I could do to stop it.  But you know what?  I’m still a believer of everything happens for a reason.

My life now is very different and it will be very different than it was… in a good way.  While I didn’t want it to happen and tried everything in my power to stop it, now I’m grateful for it.  It’s made me a stronger woman and a stronger mother.  It’s certainly not all sunshine and rainbows, that’s for sure.  Being a single mom is HARD.

pumpkin-patch 2015

I’m not getting into the details of “why” it happened and what was “wrong” (apparently?) with our marriage, but I’ll share some of my feelings I’ve experienced over the last year and a half in hopes it can possibly help someone else out there struggling, to feel not so alone, and to shed a little light on a topic that’s rarely talked about.  Not to mention, it is therapeutic for me to write, as well.

When he first announced it, I was devastated.  My family was being torn apart, and there was nothing I could do about it.  I did not come from a divorced home, and my biggest fear was William being raised with divorced parents.  The first couple of months were definitely the hardest.  I was with my family nonstop.  Almost every night I went to my parents’ house, my sister’s, or my grandparents’ house.  Their constant support gave me the power to get through each day, even when it felt unbearable.  I stayed incredibly busy, with work, with family, and with friends.

The hardest part was going home at night.  As amazing as the support was that I received, I still went home to an empty house with William each night.  It was hard, it was quiet, and it was lonely.  Once I got William to bed, I would blog (some nights), and go to bed myself.  Just thinking of these nights brings tears to my eyes.  It was hard.  I’m in a much better place now.

It was a couple of weeks before I even told my close friends.  They, like my family, were so supportive.  Daily phone calls, texts, and frequent visits were very much appreciated.  They listened when I wanted to talk and never pried for information.

While it’s easy to dwell on the many negatives of my situation, I try not to.  I was burned.  Bad.  Time and time again, I was hurt during this process.  Things were done by a family who I once called my own.  I’m still shocked at some of the events that occurred.  Unfortunately, people change and it’s not always for the better.  But I’m moving on, and I’m moving forward.  All I want William to know, is how much his momma loves him.

The reality of being a single mom is harder than anything I’ve ever experienced.  Luckily for me, I’m with William most of the time.  That’s also challenging though, as anyone with a toddler knows, it’s pretty difficult to accomplish everyday tasks.  Getting ready in the morning, preparing meals, doing laundry, keeping up with the housework.  I’ve had to prioritize and be content with knowing I’m giving it my best.  My house is never perfectly tidy (though let’s be real, it never was to begin with), but you know what?  My baby and I are healthy, and now, we’re happy.  Health and happiness.  We’ve got it, so what more can we ask for?

birthday kisses

While I’m still worried about raising William as a single mom, I know it won’t always be this way.  I also know that, no matter what the situation, it takes a village to raise a child.  My village is my family, and William has more than enough positive role models to take after and learn from.  Everyone in my family, my parents, my siblings, my grandparents, and my niece and nephews play a very important role in both of our lives.

I’ve been asked on several occasions, how do I get through it?  I stay very, very busy.  Sometimes when I reflect on my situation, I realize I literally don’t have time to stop and think about things or sulk.  In some regard, that may not be the healthiest thing as I’m constantly go go go.  I have a very hard time relaxing.  Like, I don’t.  I can’t tell you the last time I sat down to watch a movie or a show.  There’s always something to be done, and if there’s not, then I need to be sleeping.  Some days I feel absolutely exhausted.  Other days I feel like a super mom when I think about how much I do.  I know there are single moms all over the world, and I just never knew how hard it was to do literally EVERYTHING on your own.  Cooking, cleaning, errands, working full time, taking care of myself, not to mention RAISING A BABY!  Being a single mom is HARD!  I definitely don’t have it all figured out right now, but I can honestly say I’m in a good place.

Everything happens for a reason.  That’s a thought I’ve always believed in, though we may not always know what that reason is.  Life has a funny way of working out.  Good things happen to good people.  Bad things happen, too, but the good definitely outweigh the bad.  Everyday, I try to be the best version of myself, for me and for William.

So that’s that.  I think I’ve gotten out the bulk of what I wanted to share.  I’m moving on, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for me and William.  It’s hard, but there are bigger and better things in store for us.  This may just be a blessing in disguise!

No question today, but feel free to leave a comment if you have any wise words of wisdom.  Much love and power to all the single mommas out there – you rock!

being free

Freedom is the oxygen of the soul.  ~Moshe Dayan 

Oh what a year this has been!  It’s certainly had its ups and downs, but lately its been more ups than downs.  Despite what’s been going on, I’m still a firm believer in “everything happens for a reason.”  We may not always know what that reason is or why something is happening, but in the end it all works out.

When I rappelled Over the Edge last weekend, it was a very freeing experience.  It was frightening, as many things in life are, but once I got the courage to go over the edge and begin making my way down, it was so incredibly freeing.  I had my support system in place (harness, carabiners, safety catch, etc.) which is similar to life, as well.  My support system in real life is my wonderful family and friends – always there for me no matter what.  So as I embarked on this journey, I realized I’m starting a new chapter in my life.  I’m free and I’m ready to fly.

rappelling

doing what you like is freedom.  liking what you do is happiness.

Being free is being brave.

Being free is finding your purpose.

Being free is beautiful.

Being free takes courage.

Being free means taking the harder road, at times.

Being free is letting go.

Being free means finding yourself.

Being free means believing in yourself.

Man is free at the moment he wishes to be. ~Voltaire

What does being free mean to you?