A big bowl of kale. This job is that good.

Reflecting on one of the most challenging weeks in my sixth year as an elementary school administrator.  I just couldn’t catch my breath.  One thing after another.  Which, as many of you know, actually sums up a normal day at school.  But the events of this past week were incredibly emotional, unexpected, time-consuming, requiring community & staff communication and heavy on my heart.

Three big events as I look back now.  Three events that took all my energy, heart, intellect, organization and communication.  As event two was unfolding, as I paced the halls, thinking, making phone calls, consulting with staff… I felt giddy with stress and emotion. Titling on the brink of How much can I handle? I sat down with a teacher and described how good I feel about my work every day (attempt at a personal pep talk).  In the midst of trying circumstances, I do good work for kids, families and staff.  Even as events seems to be swirling outside of my control, I know this is good work.  In this slightly giddy moment, I told her, “It’s like eating a giant bowl of kale.”  We both laughed.  What a strange analogy.

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But it works.  I’d rather be eating eggs benedict or lasagna, but kale is what my body needs at this moment.  And I feel good on the inside.  This week, I’d rather have been visiting classrooms, working with kids, checking in with staff, helping serve lunch, but this was the work that needed my undivided attention.  These events, as they rose to my attention, these events became the priority.  And I felt good about it all played out.  On the inside.

Unrelated but related.  I’ve had the same conversation with a few different people lately.  “I’d never want to be a principal,” they’ve said.  My response remains consistent.  We need teachers to leave the classroom LOVING teaching, LOVING kids.  We can’t have principals leading schools who’ve burned out as educators and no longer care deeply about our kids.

There’s the connection to my “bowl of kale week.”  I care deeply about our students, our school, our families and our staff.  So when a week like this last one feels relentless, heavy, without pause and emotional, I know I can do some of my best work.  And I did.  Not always on my own, of course.  Phone calls, conversations, think time.  But I can sit here on my Sunday reflecting on the week and feel good.

Even when it’s hard, it’s awesome.  AWEsome. Bowl-of-kale-awesome.

Work/Life Balance. #reset

If you know Jen Kloczko, you know she’s rockin’ the challenges of being a principal and maintaining work/life balance (even in the midst of opening a new school site).  I admire the choices and priorities she makes between work, family, fitness, reflection and fun.  Not a exhaustive list of items to balance, by any means.  Like Jen, I believe this balance is critical to our happiness, longevity in the work and ability to continue to support the myriad people in our lives.

Let’s just start by saying, I was flailing.  But the good news is, I’ve experienced a reset.

IMG_0723First, I’ve started actually eating lunch.  Eating.  At a table.  For a whole 15 minutes.  Without working.  In the past, I’ve wolfed down my lunch in between other tasks, nibbled mindlessly here and there, or just plain skipped it.  So the result was to eat everything in site upon arriving home.  Or snacking on the who-knows-what left in the staff room.  The interesting part of sitting and eating lunch is how hard it is to just do one thing.  I have to self-correct constantly as I reach for my phone, pick up a document or try to leave mid-bite to attend to things that can wait.  And that’s the big a-ha.  Things can wait.  Unless the school’s on fire or a major injury needs attention, I can take 15 minutes of my day to eat.  And so now I do.  And I’m going to continue.  I even mark it on my calendar to make sure I don’t abandon ship.

Second, I’ve found exercise that I like.  I hate(d) exercise.  I quit the swim team in high school because our coach made us run.  I didn’t sign up for track, lady, I signed up to swim. But now I’ve found my people, my place, my activity and my time.  5am, Kaia Petaluma.  It’s dynamic, interesting and kicks my butt.  And the ladies I exercise with are positive, encouraging and fun.  The kind of people I try to always surround myself with.  Lifting others up.  Celebrating the small wins as much as the big ones.

IMG_0761Third, I’m re-embracing family time that often involves traveling and watching our boys play sports.  A recent post on FB: One day you’ll wake up, & there won’t be anyone left to take to practice (sportsdadshub.com).  So true.  And so sad.  We had two big transitions at Casa Haugen this school year.  Jacob started junior high, and Joshua started high school.  I have a high schooler.  How did THAT happen!?!  So rather than grumble at the travel ball schedule, who’s picking up from soccer practice or the cost of sports equipment, I’m embracing it all as time with my family.  Hubby and I sweat in the stands as we cheer on the team, take pics and discuss the calls and rules.  Whichever son isn’t playing spends his time cheering and chatting with us, wandering the complex or making runs to the snack bar.  We are in it together!  And the clock is ticking.  Sooner than I realize, I won’t be needed for a ride or to help pick out new cleats.  I’ve always loved to watch my boys play but somewhere along the way I focused less on the joy and more on the chore.  I’m choosing to focus on the joy again.

It’s not all figured out but I know my friend, Jen, would applaud my efforts and encourage me to continue.  I still work too much.  I don’t have good boundaries about email and phone calls.  I volunteer for too many things and try to squeeze too much into a day.  There’s a lot of work still to do.  But I highly recommend tackling what you can.  I feel good.  I have more energy, and I’m doing better work for my school and my family.  It’s been an amazing #reset.