No. 48 – Happy is a Side Effect

No. 48 – Happy is a Side Effect

We’ve all heard this phrase before. Seen it on art prints, t-shirts, coffee mugs, tattooed on our own bodies. What started off as a simple phrase has snowballed into a life mantra. A dangerous one at that: do more of what makes you happy.

NOPE!

All wrong.

The dictionary defines happy as this:

Happy (adj).

-feeling or showing pleasure or contentment

Feeling being the key word. Feelings are fleeting; they change and shift constantly. By fixating on the pursuit of a feeling, you’ll be left with a replacement feeling in happiness’ absence – emptiness.

It’s easy to believe this notion however. The notion that happiness is our North Star, our guiding light. Aiming our compass towards happiness actually leads us in the wrong direction. Our emotions are fickle, they come and go, sometimes at their own will.

I’ll be the first to own up to believing this fallacy. We’re pumped full of claims that living “this” way leads to happy. Rocking these shoes. Carrying that purse. Strutting in a body that looks a certain way. Mesmerized by this mirage and exhausting ourselves chasing a lie.

By placing happy on a pedestal as the end destination we de-value all our other feelings. One of the beauties in being human is our ability to experience the full spectrum of emotions. Sadness isn’t enjoyable but is a vital ingredient in a healthy life. We create out of sadness. It teaches us strength, perseverance, lessons we couldn’t grow from otherwise. We learn to be tender, gracious, understanding. And that it is okay to not feel okay.

Happy is a side effect NOT an end goal. Personally, I’d rather not be a stagnant robot that operates on auto pilot. I choose to live my life open to all emotions and willing to grow from the process. Embracing the chaos, accepting the bad and learning that life does not always have to look pretty.

No. 47 – Work of Heart

No. 47 – Work of Heart

Working as a teacher is tough stuff. No year has been easy, and I don’t expect it will ever be so. However, with the finish line in sight of my 5th year, I feel as if it has been my first all over again.

The classroom I’m in this year has shaken up my entire world. Teaching students with low incidence disabilities has challenged me beyond measure. The absolute sweetest humans in the world living in untraditional packaging. These students deserve nothing but the best and it often feels like my best isn’t enough. There are many limitations both between my students and myself: cognitively, physically, mentally and emotionally. And it is frequently discouraging. 

I’m constantly self-assessing, working on improving myself and my teaching styles so that I can meet these students in their needs. Consistent positive progress is few and far between as fluctuations are expected, but often blur the progression. It’s been a lot of trial and error; a constant journey. Wondering the whole way through if I’ve gotten a single thing right. 

Today, during my conference, one of my students walked in with several flowers in his hands and a grin on his face. “Mrs. Carter!” he exclaimed, “I got these for you!” 

img_3636

My heart melted and all that worrying about my teaching performance melted with it. Oftentimes as a teacher we get so wrapped up in performance, data and if we’re checking all the boxes our campus and district requires that we satisfy. That it becomes easy to lose sight of why true teachers began in the first place: an innate calling to serve. To serve students through building relationships, providing a safe haven and acting as a catalyst that ignites the passion for lifelong learning. 

A precious student of mine reminded me of my reason behind teaching, students with special needs especially. I’m reminded that what I teach them couldn’t possibly compare to what they teach me. And keeping that at the forefront of my planning and instruction will guide everything else. 

I can’t fully control everything my students retain, but I can be sure of this: they’re hearing me. Hearing my call to serve them. Hearing my love for them and their quality of life. My dedication to give them my best, even if it will never feel enough. 

So if you’re a struggling educator counting down the days until summer while simultaneously not wanting to let this precious group of students go at the end of the year, be uplifted. They’re hearing you. Maybe not in a way that will necessarily show up on test scores or report cards. But your students are hearing you where it most counts- they’re hearing you from the heart. 

That’s all the feedback I need. 

xxx

No. 46 – Sun and Rain

No. 46 – Sun and Rain

The sky opens up

And soft tears pour down from it

Gently misting the earth below.

A cacophony of droplets

Dances in my ears.

Scents of the earth

Welcome my nose.

A light opens up slowly

Illuminating the grey clouds

Brightening the sky

Yet never revealing its light.

Rain and sun

Existing together

Yet separate somehow.

Reminding me of the human spirit:

Crying out in pain

While still shining.

Mourning and worshipping,

Peaceful and tumultuous.

There is a season for all things.

Especially simultaneous sun and rain.

Author’s Note: I find that the more energy I invest in the present, the more I receive back. Yet, it’s increasingly difficult to disconnect from the noise around me. My ears have been so tuned to hear noise rather than notes. 

It has only been recently, in moments I physically remove myself that my ears begin to truly open. Overwhelmed with music all around me. Soft melodies, intended to be the soundtrack of life. Only audible when intentionally dialed in. Songs of peace, contentment, encouragement. Uplifting without utterance of a single syllable. You know exactly of which I speak if you’ve ever been comforted by the rain. 

Wishing you all time to be fully present and hear the sweet symphony playing around you. 

xxx 

Sig

No. 45 – This Season

No. 45 – This Season

The cool, gentle breeze

dances all around me

cloaking me in an unseen embrace

comforting

reassuring

fulfilling

joining me in my solitude

carrying the loneliness away

in its arms

while wrapping me up in another

cupping my face

tenderly steeling my faith.

Rejuvenated by the presence

so palpable and thick

my spirit and my face lift up,

skyward

a welcome greeting from the sun

meets my skin with a warmth

that penetrates to the depths of my soul.

winter is over.

spring is here and with it,

a season of flourishing growth.

my lips spread into a smile

for it is this season I have been waiting.

Author’s Note: So I heard that it’s National Poetry Month…? What! How did I not know this was a thing until now. So fun fact about me, poetry was actually my first exposure to writing when I was younger. I used to LOVE writing poetry. Now naturally when I was six, most of my poems rhymed or were accompanied by a tune I made up. I’d like to think I’ve strengthened that muscle since then.

For me, poetry has always been a refreshing creative outlet. To me, poetry is painting with words, and each reader gets to use the colors you’ve laid out to paint their own picture as they read. It’s beautiful.

Lately, all my thoughts have turned into poetry. Walking to my car, on my lunch break, sipping coffee in the morning. Maybe it’s the fresh spring air, or maybe I just needed the creative outlet more than I realized, because the past few weeks, I’ve written a poem a day. Sometimes even several.

This little piece came to me as I was sitting out on my patio, soaking in the spring sun. Rereading it now brings me right back to that moment in time. Peaceful, refreshing and full of promise. That’s what Spring feels like to me. A time for new growth, A time for shedding those winter layers and allowing yourself to blossom. It is my hope that these words do just that for you too.

xxx

Sig

 

No. 44 – Rest

No. 44 – Rest

Need a mid-week pick-me-up? How about a mid-chapter pick-me-up? That’s been me these past few weeks. I’ve been weary friends. Emotionally, mentally, and physically fatigued.

In this fast-paced society we live in were told we should always be striving for more. More work, mo money, more accomplishments, more self-care . And I agree, a stagnant life is a life unfulfilling. But at some point, I can’t take any more of anything. Trying to balance a full-time job, full-time marriage, side hustling, and writing a blog while also trying to better myself by working out, and stimulating my mind is exhausting. I got tired just typing it all out. When you’re in a season of growth it’s not easy, it’s uncomfortable and often tiring. I’m not writing this to say, don’t be so tired. Because reality is, sometimes we need to be tired as we work towards a better version of ourselves. I am writing this to acknowledge you in your season of striding.

A few days ago on my lunch break while sitting in my car with my windows open, absorbing the fresh air, I penned this love note to myself. And after writing it, I read it several more times that day and the next few days after that. And each time I read it, I feel rejuvenated. Its a reminder that even in the process of running after our dreams, we still need to prioritize rest. Not quitting, not abandonment, rest. So it is my sincere hope that these words encourage and rejuvenate you in the same way they have done for me.

When weary, dear one,Rest.

But never cease.

For there will be many times

Your aching muscles will be screaming

At you to give up

To lay down and wait for death.

But never cease.

Pause and catch your breath

Remember why you started

And fan that flame as you press onward

Gaze forward, head high

But never cease.

In those moments of defeat

You will gain your inner strength

Fortitude that is powerful enough

To propel you forward

When you believe there is nothing left.

When you grow weary time and time again,

Rest, but never cease.

In short, grab a coffee, or in my case a chai tea from Epic Gelato and take a moment to rest.

No. 43 – Skin Deep

No. 43 – Skin Deep

Ever heard the saying, beauty is only skin deep? I vehemently disagree with that statement. I believe beauty is rooted in our core. Aesthetics may be only surface level, but true beauty has nothing to do with appearance.

Like most girls, I grew up with a warped perspective of my value, my body and its appearance and my role in my personal health. My parents raised me in a conservative household where makeup was not permitted until I was 14. I did not have the typical adolescence makeup experience – you know, bad eye liner, neon eye shadows and blush so deeply red you rival a clown.

After I turned 14, my mother took me to a Bare Minerals beauty counter, and the consultant helped me select a few items that would be appropriate for a 14 year old just beginning to dabble in the dark arts of makeup. I was so excited and couldn’t wait to transform the plain, boring version of myself that I viewed in the mirror into the knock-out I always imagined lay underneath an intense makeup application. One that would camouflage everything I thought I wasn’t.

As soon as the car pulled in the driveway, I bolted up the stairs to my room, ripping open the packaging on the way – eager to apply my transformation. First, foundation powder all over my face. Then some naturally colored blush on my cheeks. Swiping several different colors across my eyelids, hoping that would make them pop. And for the final touch, some mascara. As I applied the final coat of black mascara, I sat back to gaze at my final product, ready to drink my newly beautiful self in.

I blinked…in shock. I looked exactly the same, just with a little shimmer around my eyes. My face still looked too round, no definitive cheek bones, small eyes and thin lips. I rotated my head, observing it from all angles. Nope. I still looked the same. Well this was a complete flop! I went into the bathroom, wiped the gunk off my face and chalked up the makeup idea as a farce. I believed that I wasn’t enough, but that I was beyond help. The first time I remember feeling dissatisfied, truly with my appearance.

Fast forward several years to a 17 year old. A committed tennis player, training 4-5 hours a day. Sweat, allergens, dirt, weather elements as well as genetics, all contributed to the start of a severe battle with acne. One that plagued me until I was 22. I evolved from a girl who hardly ever wore makeup to a person who would not leave the house without it. Slathering it on, in hopes that it would conceal the painful bumps blanketing my face. But even with full-coverage foundation, in my eyes, my skin felt and looked like a topographical map of my face. Splotchy, bumpy, uneven and embarrassing. I had tried virtually every available acne-cleansing system on the market but nothing helped. On the tennis court, I felt invincible. But off the court, I hated what I saw when I looked in the mirror. But with each makeup application, I learned to cringe a bit less.

When I say, make-up was a necessity, I mean it. In college, my routine would go as follows. Wake up, usually after 5 unheard alarms and my roommate shaking me. Makeup application. Class. Lunch. Makeup reapplication/touchups. Tennis. Dinner. Shower. Makeup application. Study. Wash face. Bed. I wouldn’t go to class without. Couldn’t go to tennis practice without reapplying an additional coat. I wouldn’t go to study with my friends unless I had reapplied a third coat. It was a problem, but I believed the lie that without less flawed skin I was ugly and had no value.

Until one day, I was about to hang out with a particularly handsome man after tennis practice. I jumped in the shower, got all cleaned up and was just about to apply another coat of makeup. But my sweet, roommate Kayla, stopped me. She said, “Why are you putting make up on? You guys are just hanging out.”

I began to list my rolodex full of reasons why I needed another dose of makeup, especially because I really, really liked this guy.

“He’s going to have to see you without your makeup eventually. You’re beautiful with and without makeup on.”

My lips wanted to protest, but my heart softened. No one had ever told me that before. I glanced into the mirror perched on top of my desk. My eyes swept over my face, scrutinizing every discolored, red fleshy bump. My years of negative self-talk kicked into overdrive as I ripped myself to shreds.

No one thinks this bare face is beautiful without makeup.  

If he sees you like this, he will be so grossed out that he’ll never want to hang out with me again. 

But Kayla’s words echoed through my hardened exterior. The welcome sunshine after a hard winter of snow. Meeting up with Kendrae that evening without makeup petrified me to no end. And while I didn’t quite believe that I was beautiful without makeup or with it on some days, I wanted to. So I took the plunge. And was shocked when Kendrae didn’t seem to bat an eye.

I realized how wearing makeup had crippled me. So much so that I had extreme anxiety if I wasn’t wearing it. So the next morning, I got up a little later than I planned and made a sleepy-eyed decision not to wear makeup to my 8:00 am class. I was extremely nervous and anticipated some stares, but I could handle it.

I sat down at the long table and began to page through my notebook. Out of the corner of my eye, I felt a stare from a classmate a few seats down. I steeled myself, and raised my gaze to meet her. As I shot her a smile, she questioned: “Are you sick? You don’t look like you’re feeling well.”

My smile quickly faded and my face grew flush. I shook my head no, as I lied and told her I was just tired. Absolutely mortified that my initial suspicions were true, I vowed with tears in my eyes never to be caught without makeup on again. The rest of the class was a blur, and I jogged back to my room as soon as it ended, praying no one else would see me.

About a year after that, I finished up 9 months of Acutane treatment. A radical prescription used in the treatment of acne. It warrants intense side effects and came with a large price tag, one that mostly I absorbed. But I didn’t care how awful I felt while taking it, how difficult it made playing tennis and how inconvenient the monthly pregnancy tests and blood work were. If this drug could eradicate my acne, I would gladly pay any cost – financially, mentally, physically and emotionally.

And when I completed my final month of treatment, with a long-awaited clear face, I was relieved. I could finally live the life my acne had held me back from for so long. But after the newness of no longer popping pills and the range of side effects they brought with them, I still was not happy with what I saw in the mirror. My face no longer had bumps, but I continued to feed the need to consume makeup. I’m just covering up my redness and acne scars, I’d reassure myself. If I couldn’t bear to look at it, surely no one else could either. And the vicious cycle perpetuated. The acne was merely a magnifying glass enlarging the problem that was pre-existent. One that could not be remedied with a prescription.

Again, let’s skip ahead in the story to yesterday. I woke up not feeling well. And since it’s been so dry and cold lately, I felt like giving my skin a break. So I moisturized twice and went to work sans makeup. No foundation, no eye brow filler, no highlighter, blush, eyeshadow or mascara. My face was completely bare. And after about 30 minutes in my classroom another adult made a remark.

“You look sick. I didn’t want to say nothing, but your eyes look all glassy and your face looks puffy.”

I nodded, half-smiled and rolled my eyes on the inside. A comment similar to someone remarking that you’re sunburnt when you’re obviously acutely aware that you’re the color of a ripe tomato and physically hot to your own touch. Unnecessary, obnoxious and rude. And so I continued about my day. But it was during my lunch break that I unpacked the encounter from earlier.

While the comment about my lack of makeup was rude and uncalled for, I wasn’t negatively impacted by it. I didn’t run off to the bathroom and look in the mirror to see if she was right. It didn’t change how I felt about myself inwardly or outwardly. In fact, it didn’t affect my day at all. But it did allow for some reflection. When had I become more comfortable with my natural skin? There was no moment of revelation. In fact, it has been a long process over the past five years. A process of limiting my negative self-talk, reframing critiques from others and myself, intentionally speaking kindness and nourishing the skin I’m in.

True change takes time and effort. But most importantly consistency. If I had not chased after true change in myself years ago, I would have been devastated by that individual’s remark today.

Skin Deep 2

*I did not wake up like this. I didn’t even apply this myself, a professional did.*

There are some days I choose to wear makeup. But now it’s because I want to. I view it as a form of self-expression which allows me to be more playful and artsy. There are some days where I don’t wear any makeup at all. And I even leave the house looking that way. I have learned that what is or isn’t on my face has no true impact on the way I carry myself, my abilities or my heart. Beauty has nothing to do with appearance. Beauty radiates from the inside out.

Words–from yourself and others–only have power over you if you allow them to.

Author’s Note: Someone dear to me shared a personal experience the other day on social media. She discussed this inner war that teetered back and forth with her appearance. The things we say in our head about our own bodies that we would never speak to another human being. And in her moment of frailty, a stranger spoke words of love to her, shaking her to her core. Reminding her that what we think and say to ourselves matters. And this reflection touched me, and stirred a burning question in my mind. Why is it so easy to speak love over others, yet so hard to nurture ourselves in that same manner? 

In celebration of Women’s History Month, I wanted to touch on a subject that was near and dear to my heart. I too have suffered many barbed and poisonous verbal attacks, some of the deepest wounds coming from my own tongue. Comments laced to damage and destroy, yet ones that I would never utter aloud. Especially not aimed at another person. But time and time again I would lower the boom on myself and let loose.

Something has to change. The comparison game has to end. This idea of perfection is a mirage. A dreamt-up concoction that will leave you stranded in the middle of a desert.  

I’ve seen it happen in others and I’ve slowly started to witness the change in myself too. Words are insanely powerful. And over time, their power can increase. If you continuously berate yourself, you will not only believe those lies, you will become them. If instead, you nourish yourself with kindness and truth and love they will transform you, but also radiate through you in such a way that others will feel their warmth.

xxx

Sig

No. 42 – The Key

No. 42 – The Key

Two weeks ago, I dished on my first Valentine’s Day and how it was so perfect. It was easy to write about because it had a happy ending. But the first 21 years did not all turn out that way. Life was not a cake walk in the romance department. And consisted a lot of impatiently waiting for my other half to complete me.

After a rough break up, with a boy I wasn’t even dating, I had reached my tether with romance. Fed up with gauging my happiness through others. The male species specifically. It was the summer of 2013. I was out running errands and stopped at Panera Bread for lunch. I debated for several minutes in my car about whether or not to order my food to go or eat solo. I imagined all the glances and judgement my solo escaped would warrant. Until the irony of my inner debate while sitting in my car trumped any potential dining embarrassment.

I swallowed my pride, lifted my chin up and walked through the doors, determined to dine alone without fear or shame. After ordering, I selected a window-side table. Not too centrally located, but not ducked off in a corner either. As I awaited my lunch, I couldn’t help but notice a high-school aged couple that settled into a booth slightly to the left of my forward gaze. And as the girl went to slide into the booth, a shimmer on her finger caught my eye. Her hand slid across the top length of the booth as she scooted inwards. All the while my eyes fixed on the ring that bejeweled her finger.

Mug (1 of 1)

Being a James Avery fanatic, I could spot their pieces anywhere. This particular piece being no different. I had been ogling over this ring for some time. It was a key and heart intertwined together, signifying in my mind that the giver of the ring symbolically held the heart of the receiver. A concept that existed only in my day dreams. But one that frequented quite often.

An instant twinge of jealousy and disappointment constricted around my heart. This young girl was living my dream while I ate alone with absolutely no boyfriend or prospects on the horizon.

When would a boy buy me that ring?

Would I ever have what she had?

What was wrong with me?

Almost as soon as the thoughts came tumbling out of my brain, an arrow pierced my heart. And my common sense kicked me in the rear. You do not need someone else to buy you that ring, Sarah. In fact, you are completely capable of purchasing that ring yourself.

The server interrupted my train of thought as she brought my food to the table. I thanked her and smiled as I stared out the window. My eyes lost focus as I overlooked the parking lot and embraced the sunshine. Even in my state of what felt like hopelessness, the sun was still shining. I was only 21, with no clue how my life would play out. But I did possess a newly discovered revelation. My heart was not a commodity to be out in the open. My heart, precious and sacred, deserved safe guarding. It was not an item to be handed away so freely. All the energy I misplaced in holding my heart in the palm of my hands and hoping someone would find it worthy enough to pick up. When all along, it had always been worthy. And it was already in someone’s hands: mine.

Enough! I shouted in my head. From now on, I was holding the key to my own heart.

There was a James Avery store not too far from Panera, and I was going to drive straight there and buy that ring for myself. I was already worthy of that ring, and I didn’t need to wait on a man to give it to me.

Key (1 of 1)

Author’s Note: While this miniscule moment was perspective altering for me, it required and still requires quite a bit of ground work on my end. The ring wields no actual importance, but what it represents does. And much like a tattoo, serves as a visual reminder to recognize and embrace my own worth. To guard my heart and stop believing that I needed another person to complete me or feel valued.

If you’re at all familiar with my personal love story, you’ll note that while I recaptured my own heart in the summer of 2013, it was about a year later that my relationship with Kendrae began to bloom. Which leads me to point out two important items. The first being that I had to appreciate myself and nurture my inner dialogue before I could ever be ready to healthily add in another person. One of the reasons Kendrae and I were able to make our relationship work was because we understood the importance of vetting a potential partner before fully letting our guards down. We had both suffered heart-break in the past and learned to respect our own hearts in new light. 

Which brings me to my second point. Because I hadn’t practiced treasuring my own heart for very long before delving into a relationship, my learning curve continued. I was so wrapped up in the idea of being someone’s girlfriend, that I forgot to water myself. I submerged head first into this wonderful new relationship, but lost myself along the way. Consumed with tending to Kendrae and nourishing our relationship, that I neglected myself. I wanted to spend all my spare time soaking up Kendrae. So enraptured by him that I just handed him my heart after a few weeks. A gesture that Kendrae was not ready for, and quite frankly neither was my heart.

Just because I met this new person who I believed was better than any Prince Charming, did not mean that he deserved access to my heart so soon. And with time, and a lot of patience I did place my heart in Kendrae’s strong yet gentle hands. But by reclaiming the key to my own heart, I encouraged myself to be more careful with whom I allowed it to be held. So I want to encourage you to be cautious in matters of your heart. Treasure it and be selective of whom and what can gain access. You are a rarity and should treat yourself as such.

xxx 

Sarah