That Time of Year

The end of the school year is plagued with a long list of to do’s that make the last few weeks feel like a frenetic race in a hamster ring that spins incessantly without a definitive end in sight. As my twelfth year in education is winding down, I find myself in this familiar rat race. The one difference, however, is that now being a counselor in a high school setting the amount of paperwork I’m trying to manage far outshines any end of year duties I’ve performed at previous schools. With all of that being said, it’s that time of year, and I have had very little downtime to attend to my blog.

In between proctoring AP tests, preparing for final exams, and managing course selections, I’ve managed some time for the most important thing in my life- my family. Last weekend the boys and I trekked to Waco for an adventure at the TAPPS State Track Meet. Friday rain brought incredibly muddy conditions and the boys relished in the opportunity to frolic in the mud. Thank goodness for hotel bathtubs to help remedy the dirty work of boys being boys.

IMG_7681

Our Saturday morning started off early as usual, so I decided on an impromptu trip to the Cameron Park Zoo since running events weren’t slated to begin till later in the day. The rain from the previous day brought gorgeous weather for our zoo adventure. The animals loved the cooler temperatures and put on quite a show for us.

The afternoon brought warmer temperatures with beautiful blue skies and bright sunshine. The level of student talent was high as they raced their hearts out around Panther Stadium. Harrison toed the line with seven other competitors poised to finish this season out on a high note. Seeded 8th going in, he knew he would have to run a strong race. The four laps of his mile race demonstrated dedication, perseverance, and heart. Racing alongside the best 6A milers in the state, he secured a 7th place finish with a strong showing in his final lap. I couldn’t be more proud of his efforts and look forward to watching him chase down PR’s in the next three years at St. John XXIII.

IMG_7764

We ended our weekend off on a high note with a belated cinco de mayo celebration on Sunday at Gringo’s. Sean and I enjoyed our celebratory margaritas and the boys enjoyed ice cream and some playground fun while we were there. Our spontaneous dinner also included Jim (Grandpa Dodd) who we had the pleasure of sharing our evening with.

By Monday the work week was in full swing and the nonstop to do list continued to build. Riding out these last few weeks, I know how important it will be to make time to unwind with the boys. Monday marked the first day I didn’t have track practice since March, so the boys and I capitalized on the gorgeous afternoon with an impromptu trip to one of the neighborhood playgrounds after school.

IMG_7749

I hope that when the dust settles and the school year officially comes to an end, I will have more time to dedicate to sharing my thoughts, adventures, and life with you through my blog. In the meantime, the adage, “this too shall pass” is a rather comforting quote I’m carrying with me.

A Tough Act to Follow

God blesses us with infinite opportunities in life to selflessly give our time to others. My high school cross-country and track coach modeled this selflessness with the grace of an angel. She dedicated countless hours away from her husband and family to lead workouts, call splits, and encourage her athletes to reach their full potential. When I reflect back on this time, my heart swells with joy as I think of how incredibly blessed I was to have her in my life as a coach, teacher, and mentor.

gold

This year marked my first year as a high school track coach. Armed with a stopwatch, a composition notebook full of workouts, and the wisdom of many years of running, I stepped into Coach Torres’s shoes to impart a love of running and the importance of sportsmanship, hard work, and dedication. My field of runners brought so much light to my afternoons as together we ticked away lap after lap around the track pushing each other along to greatness.

All season long one of my freshman boys continued to impress me with his raw talent and competitive spirit. Every week he shaved seconds off of his mile time and ended his final lap with the speed and tenacity of a runner far beyond his years. Last week at the district meet, he went into the meet seeded 5th place overall. In the final lap, he executed a flawless kick that allowed him to surpass enough runners in the field to garner a 3rd place finish. I welled with pride as he crossed the finish line and beamed from ear-to-ear knowing we had another week and a half of practice to prepare for regionals.

On Thursday afternoon, under a cloudless, bright blue sky, he toed the line with eight other competitors. Going in to the race, he was ranked fourth. We’d spent all week strategizing how this race needed to play out with him finishing in the top three to secure his spot to compete at state. In the final moments before the gun went off, I did the sign of the cross and offered the race up to the Lord. My prayer was simple, “Lord please bless Harrison today. We’ve done everything possible to get him ready for today. Let your will be done. Amen.”

With my stomach in knots, the gun went off and the runners set out on a mission. The race played out like a movie in slow motion. He led for most of the first lap, rounded out the second lap in last place, and then in typical Harrison fashion, he put it all on the line in the final lap and put every last ounce of his energy into the last 150 meters of the race. With his head tucked down, his arms pumping with determination, and his crimson red singlet swaying in the wind, he was poetry in motion in the final straightaway of the 1600. Cheering him on at the top of my lungs, my heart swelled with pride as he sprinted past two runners to secure his place as the 3rd place finisher. His finish earns him the opportunity to compete next week at the TAPPS 6A State Track Meet in Waco next Saturday.

In that moment when he crossed the finish line, I wished with all of my heart that I could pick up the phone and share my victory with you, Coach Torres. In that moment, it all came full circle for me. I remembered how overjoyed I was the first time I qualified to the state track meet. I vividly remember the joy I saw in Coach Torres’s eyes as she recognized what my second place regional finish meant for both of us.

Coach Torres, you are an incredibly tough act to follow, but I have tried my absolute best to lead by example just like you did at every single practice and meet. Next week at the state track meet, I know you’ll be watching us from your front row bleacher seat in Heaven. A great coach motivates, inspires, and brings out the best in their athletes. Thank you, Coach Torres, for bringing out the best in me. Your leadership and selflessness are a shining example of the kind of high school track coach I aspire to be!

Off the Radar

Since my last post, life has been a whirlwind of beautiful moments and amazing milestones. To catch everyone up to speed, I’d like to showcase some of the highlights that have had me flying high for the last two weeks.

9 MONTHS LATER

After nine long months of waiting, the State Board of Texas finally granted me licensure as a Licensed Professional Counselor Intern. I can now start seeing clients under the supervision of Tiffany Priska, LPC-S. I am eager to expand my experience in private practice and look forward to learning the business side of private practice at Serenity Counseling of Cypress. As I continue my work as a school counselor at St. John XXIII College Preparatory, I will slowly start to build a list of clients until I’ve earned the 3,000 hours required by the state to drop the “I” and be fully licensed as a Licensed Professional Counselor. I know I have my work cut out for me, but I look forward to the opportunity to grow professionally.

STEPPING OUT FOR A GREAT CAUSE

IMG_7204

Training alongside the high school boys I’ve been coaching for track has clearly paid off. I was grateful for an incredibly strong showing at the Steps for Students 5K, an annual race and fundraiser for Catholic schools in the Houston area. Race day conditions were humid and drizzly, but these conditions didn’t slow me down. I finished the race in 18:40, placing 5th overall and crossing the finish line as the first overall female. The silver lining to an already great morning was discovering a stack of 50 Chick-Fil-A gift cards in my swag bag for being the overall female. It looks like I’ll be enjoying a sandwich or 8 count nuggets on them for the next year!

100 DAYS OF AWESOME

IMG_7201

Last Friday, Liam celebrated the 100th day of school with a number themed party in his classroom. All kindergarteners made their own shirts beforehand to showcase their creativity. Using his index finger and an assortment of acrylic paints, he created a colorful rainbow and his name with 100 personalized finger prints. He beamed with pride about getting to wear his shirt to school. The day included games, activities, and arts and crafts that all centered around the number 100.

IMG_0078

Tomorrow he has his first field trip to the Oil Ranch. Tucking him in tonight, he told me how he wished it was already morning so that he could go on his trip. Clearly our little kindergartener is an eager beaver. This year it has been such a joy watching him grow academically and socially. I look forward to hearing all about his field trip adventure tomorrow after school.

VIVA LAS VEGAS

Last weekend, my parents drove up to watch the boys, so Sean and I could enjoy a long weekend in Las Vegas. Between the amazing food, shows, and people watching, there was never a dull moment.

The highlights of the trip include a relaxing stay at the Bellagio, an impromptu dinner at Hell’s Kitchen (a cancellation opened the door unexpectedly for us to get a table as walk ins), and amazing entertainment (Cirque de Soleil’s O, Aces of Comedy featuring Ray Romano & David Spade, and The Million Dollar Piano Man: Elton John).

A getaway with your spouse is always a wonderful way to reconnect. Vegas proved to be the perfect opportunity for just that!

ON THE MOVE

IMG_0076

Today our Baby Bear celebrated his 16 months of life with a new milestone- walking. This sweet boy has been trying to embrace this feat for a few weeks now, but I can say with confidence and certainty that he is officially on the move now. This Mama Bear couldn’t be more proud seeing him walk across the floor towards me beaming with pride. He’ll be running alongside me before I know it!

IMG_7196

I appreciate your patience and understanding about my temporary hiatus from blogging. I’m eager to share some new recipes and blog about other new adventures very soon. Until next time…

One Track Mind

My mother jokingly says that from the moment I could walk, I chose to run instead. In elementary school my grandfather gifted me my very own starting blocks that he purchased at the flea market. Most evenings, I laced up my shoes and sprinted around the front yard letting the imaginary gun in my head send me on my way. By middle school, I ate, slept, and breathed cross-country and track. And so began the miles upon miles of strength and speed workouts that helped me develop into a distance athlete with a one track mind.

My life on the run shaped me into the woman I am today. A life of high mileage required stamina, strength, speed, skill, and spirit. In shaking the hands of my competitors, demonstrating sportsmanship through winning and losing, and forging friendships with my teammates, I developed a level of character carved out of perseverance, faith, and heart.

This year I have the privilege of sharing these life lessons with a group of high school distance runners at my school coaching the middle and long distance athletes. I hope to impart some of the wisdom I learned along the way both on and off the track from influential coaching mentors like Sylvia Torres, Melba Barreiro, Meme Garza, and Gary Staley.

STAMINA

Effective distance running requires stamina. This can only be achieved through a well-established base of mileage that allows you to find that third and fourth wind when you need it most. Success in life also requires stamina; the ability to sustain prolonged physical or mental effort. True to the adage, “life is a marathon; not a sprint.”

IMG_7099

STRENGTH

It takes great physical and mental strength to be a successful distance runner. Sometimes a distance race will try to break you if you let it. There are moments in life that will try to do the same. It takes great strength to overcome adversity. The challenges we face in competition force us to push through the pain, refuse to accept failure, and chase our dreams until we cross the finish line. True to the saying, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

IMG_7104

SPEED

Although speed in the 1600 meters looks a little different than the speed demonstrated in the 200 meters, don’t discount the level of effort it requires. In life and on the track, it often comes down to the last stretch of the race. Stamina and strength will only carry you so far. You have to find that last gear and sprint with every ounce of speed you can reign in to chase down your opponents.

In life, there will always be a winner, and the winner is always the person who trained the hardest and refused to settle for anything but a first place finish. In life, there will always be a loser too. The positive side of losing, however, is the takeaway. What did you learn from your failure that will make you better?

IMG_7108

SKILL

Success on the track and in life requires a high level of skill. Developing and honing these skills takes time, effort, dedication, sweat, and grit. You can’t be afraid to fail, to fall, to hurt, and to face disappointment.

IMG_7105

SPIRIT

All of the stamina, strength, speed, and skill in the world are not enough to break a world record or shatter a glass ceiling. The most important part of pursuing a dream is the human spirit. Believing in yourself and putting your whole heart into your work, truly are the foundation for achieving great success in life. Humility, grace, and faith together with spirit will light the fire in your heart that propels you forward.

IMG_7106

Oftentimes, the phrase, “a one track mind” carries a negative connotation. But in the pursuit of a first place win, you will need to pull from all of your resources and chase down the gold with blinders that block out anything that might stand in your way and prevent you from cinching the win.

Off the track, the same mindset dictates success. Harness your spirit, muscle up, find the speed and stamina to persevere, and hone your skills so that even in the face of adversity, your one track mind refuses to back down until you successfully summit your mountain. Carpe diem!

Unwavering, Unconditional, & Unfaltering

This week work proved to be incredibly challenging. On more than one occasion, I left work holding back tears that came pouring out as soon as I hit the freeway. Being a counselor, places difficult situations in your lap almost every day. In the course of a day, you are often pulled in numerous directions. It can be emotionally draining and oftentimes thankless work, but my heart guides me every step of the way.

As a mother, my heart broke this week for two students I have been working with all year. Motherhood is a gift, I am so incredibly blessed to have in my life. In sharing stories with my friends who are mothers, all of them share the same sentimentality. We love our children deeply, fiercely, and unconditionally. Motherhood is not always a cakewalk, but whether our children are fifteen months old or fifteen, our children need us to walk with them, accept them, respect them, and love them.

Maintaining confidentiality is an important part of my role as a counselor, so I cannot get into specifics as to why my heart goes out to these students. However I can encourage and motivate the mothers reading this to consider what I’m about to say so that their children alway feel love and supported.

Motherhood tests us each and every single day. Our children will make mistakes, but more importantly we will too. Forgiveness is such an important part of our role as mothers. First we must forgive ourselves for our shortcomings, and then we must forgive our children for theirs.

As our children get older, they will push boundaries more than we might like. They might frustrate us and at times anger us. Don’t lose heart, Mama Bears. Remember it’s part of the job description. We might be tempted to cast judgement in our times of anger. We might have a hard time holding our tongue. It will take incredible self-control, but we absolutely must be mindful of what we say to our children. We cannot take back what we say. Our words have great power and can create mistrust and great heartache for our children. We will not always agree with our children’s actions, decisions, or lifestyle choices. No matter what though, they are our children. We must remember every step of the way how our children deserve to feel safe, secure, and supported.

Our work as a mother requires unwavering patience, unconditional love, and unfaltering support. In infancy, while toddling, growing into childhood, and then blossoming into adolescence, our children need their mother’s love in its purest and truest form. My work with high school students has made that more evident than ever. Be that pillar of support and love they so desperately need even when they seem too big to need it anymore. They will forever be our babies, and our babies will always need their mamas!

mama

Choose Kindness

Why do some women thrive on breaking other women down? It’s a question I’ve reflected on for most of my life, and nearly 35 years later I still feel quite perplexed by all of it.

mean girls

I can think of a handful of mean girls who thrived on unkindness in middle school and high school. I remember on more than one occasion pouring my heart out to my mother as tears rolled down my face about how unbearable it felt to face the cruelty of these mean spirited girls. I know I certainly hoped that after high school, girls would outgrow this phase and I wouldn’t have to lose sleep over their antics.

darling

Even into adulthood, I’ve faced my fair share of mean girls. They thrive on the drama of bringing others down. Oftentimes fueled by jealousy, they bring their toxicity, mean spiritedness, and general crappy disposition into the workplace and it lingers like a bad cold that just won’t go away.

stronger in the places

As a woman, a wife, a mother, a friend, and a professional, I’m always taken aback by these types of women. Are they really so unhappy that they need to rain our parade of happiness? Why do they feel like they have a right to act this way and treat others so poorly?

woman

Even as a counselor, I don’t have all of the answers. There is undoubtedly a significant amount of insecurity, unhappiness, and anger they are enmeshed in. I work with high school girls who struggle with mean girls just like I did when I was in their shoes. It’s significantly worse now as a result of social media. So few people today filter their comments, think twice about how their words can cut someone else, or even seem to bat an eye when they take it too far.

i wish

I write this piece today for two separate but also distinctly important reasons. First and foremost, all women deserve to be respected and appreciated for who they are. Each of us has unique talents and gifts that we share with the world and someone else shouldn’t think it’s okay to step in and try to break someone down for being true to themselves. Most of my readers are women doing their very best every day to put their best foot forward and make a positive difference in the world. The last thing we should be trying to do is break down one of our own.

people can be mean 2

Secondly, encouraging and propagating negative behavior only stirs the pot more and makes mean girls and mean women for that matter continue to behave in this manner. It starts with each and every one of us. Stop giving them a platform. Stop giving them an audience. Stop letting them think it’s okay to break down other women in any other capacity. Our lives as women, wives, mothers, and friends should be about bringing out the best in ourselves and others. We don’t know what kinds of struggles and hardships another individual is carrying with them into work, Wal-Mart, or Wendy’s. It is not our place to judge, mistreat, or berate someone else.

collaborate

You might be wondering what prompted me to address this topic today? In truth, I’m quite frustrated by a mean spirited coworker who has been trying to break my own spirits. Her underhanded behavior has definitely gotten under my skin. However I refuse to let her ruffle my feathers enough to stoop down to her level. I will hold my head high, continue to pour myself passionately into my work as a counselor, and kill her with kindness. On my best days, I walk away from work completely unaffected by her behavior. On my worst days, I have a few choice words I use as I vent to my mom on the drive home.

be kind even to

Even in darkness, kindness makes the world a better place. Today, tomorrow, and the day after that, start throwing kindness around like it’s confetti. Put an end to encouraging the drama queens and mean girls of the world. Squelch out their voice with your kind words, explosive optimism, and beautiful smile.

here's to

 

Remembering Granddad

Earlier this week marked the fourth anniversary of my grandfather’s death. For those close to him, he was best remembered for how deeply he loved my grandmother, D’Ann,  how dedicated he was to his work, and his passionate fire for the Texas A&M Aggies.

He was anything but the warm and fuzzy type. He cursed like a sailor and never apologized for his temper. For most of his life, he maintained a strict exercise regimen. Like clockwork, he was up by 5:00 a.m. and out the door for his daily morning walk. Rain or shine, he ventured out; often bragging that he was “airborne.”

IMG_5883

My grandfather smoked like a chimney for most of his life. Most of my childhood memories include him puffing on a cigarette alongside my grandmother. When she became deathly ill with a lung infection though, he quit smoking cold turkey. A habit I can’t imagine was easy to do. There were few things my grandfather wouldn’t do for his beautiful, D’Ann. Married for over 50 years, they shared a love of traveling, tall Cuba Libres, and brown pelicans.

Hard work paved the way for a very successful career. It started first working on the railroads with his father and brother and later traveling further south to pursue a profession in the shrimping industry. My grandmother was anything but pleased about moving away from San Antonio to the quiet town of Port Isabel, but my grandfather soon made her realize the opportunities were plentiful on the coast. The two of them settled into life in South Texas with my father and uncle. Working at the docks meant long days in humid and hot conditions, especially when the season opened and closed or an imminent hurricane was in the Gulf.  His work ethic instilled in me the importance of working hard for the things that matter most in life- your family and career.

IMG_5885

Since my grandfather passed, the fall seems a lot quieter than I remember. He never missed a Texas Aggie football game on television. He’d hoop and holler at the screen cheering on his alma mater with the gusto of a yell leader. If the game turned south, however, he often had very vocal and profane words he’d direct at his beloved team. This usually meant a lot of “G D’s” as I often referred to them when I was younger. Being a member of the Corps of Cadets brought him great pride. He carried the spirit of Aggieland in his heart until the very end.

In reflecting on his life as a son, husband, father, grandfather, friend, and Aggie, I’m grateful for the moments we shared. For him, my accolades as a runner brought him great pride. I loved calling him after a race and sharing my accomplishments with him. How I wish Sean, Liam, and Atticus could have met him! I know he’s smiling down on me from a comfortable chair in Heaven. His feet are propped up and he’s enjoying the view from above!

IMG_5884