Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Suitcase College Grad

I'd been on the road all day when I stopped at a little town just outside of Conway, Arkansas. You know how it is. Or if you don't, you've seen enough movies to guess. You know, when the sweet, young, twenty-something waltzes in to small town America.

No one dares to speak to her directly, but she is clearly the topic of many other discussions, from everyone between the elderly couple at their regular diner table to the high school boys who work as car mechanics up the street after school. If the town was any more picturesque, I would've expected to see Ren McCormick fighting the dance ban at the courthouse down the road.

Who is she? the whispering voices escape from those leaning in toward the other members of their party, We've never seen her before. 

That's the small town way to say, I wonder what her story is, or to put it more bluntly, What on earth is she doing here? 

To this town, I was exotic. Either decently established or carefree enough to live off her limited wad of cash. Fiercely independent, and presumably quite lonely. A vagabond, perhaps, passing through on the way to her next lot in life. Or someone who reported to a job every morning and was taking some much needed vacation time.

When in fact, quite the opposite was true...

I haven't had a residential address for the past two weeks. I've been living out of a suitcase in my hot-pink childhood bedroom, already moved out of Springfield, Missouri but not yet moved in to Nashville, Tennessee. I was making this trek to Nashville alone, my family and movers and semi truck full of furniture to come later. But these small town folk would never know, because no one bothered to ask.

Except the little girl with ringlet pigtails.

You see, kids are a little like dogs. Dogs can sense dog people. And kids can sense kid people. So when I sit alone at a diner in a southern small town, the first one to speak to me other than my waitress is a child.

"I like your shoes," she told me, pointing to my polka dot sneakers.

"Thanks," I smiled, "Yours are pretty cool, too."

She twirled around in her pink strappy sandals.

"Lexi, don't bother her!" a woman (I assumed it to be her mother) called toward us.

"She's fine," I reassured her. The woman stayed seated. She looked exhausted.

"You're here by yourself?" the little girl named Lexi asked.

"Yes, ma'am," I told her.

"No parents?"

"Not with me."



"Cool," she said. And I laughed.

"Yeah," I realized in that moment, "It is pretty cool."

I paid my bill and tipped high because I was fortunate enough to never have to work food service or retail (I chose the daycare route instead), and waved the girl goodbye. I had to laugh when I saw my little blue car, stuffed to the brim with boxes and trash bags full of clothes. A lone traveler with her necessities (or items such as denim wedges she at least deemed to be necessities) leaving no room for a single other person in her car.

Well little Lexi... I've got a pretty awesome life awaiting me in Nashville. I've got a good apartment to live in and a man who loves me. I have no job, and no more than a couple hundred dollars in my bank account, but it's a good life. I have what's important, and I'll figure out the rest.

Sometimes you have to let go and let God, little Lexi. If you learn this now, maybe you'll be a less anxious lone traveler in polka dot sneakers one day. Maybe you'll be living out of a suitcase and passing through another small town on your way to another state. Maybe you'll be ready to start a life with your high school sweetheart after five years of waiting, and maybe you'll start searching for a job doing what you love most.

I hope you do. Because you said it best, kiddo.

It's pretty darn cool.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Top 3 Dating Motivations That Will Help You Find A Relationship That Fits

by Guest Writer: Stefan Simonovic

With countless failed relationships, that one particularly painful, and the rest swept under the rug, it’s hard to look yourself in the mirror and say with confidence you know what you deserve and what you should have.

Teachers, doctors, make-up artists, hair stylists, biker women, skinny women, tall women, and short women have all experienced self-doubt at some point in their lives when it comes to relationships.

Let’s review the top 3 dating motivations that can help you find a relationship that is a perfect fit.

Dating Motivation #1: Self-Doubt is Welcome
Self-doubt is inevitable when faced with failure, and there is no better learning experience than failure. However, when we fail the most important thing is to make sure we know exactly what happened and why it happened so it never happens again. Failed relationships are extremely painful, but if we learn from them what we need and what is absolutely unacceptable we grow as individuals and become more mature. Maturity is another important aspect of anyone who knows what they want and how to get it.

Dating Motivation #2: Never Stop Building Self-Confidence
Self-confidence is something everyone needs whatever they do in life. Whether you're trying to finish school, advance your career, learn new skills or raise children, self-confidence is the key ingredient that is like salt - it gives everything taste so it's not uninspired. True self-confidence shines brighter than any other aspect of your personality, and it speaks volumes about your values. If you know your own self-worth, and now how to handle yourself and the world around you, people will be attracted to you because they'll know you can be a reliable and trustworthy partner.

Dating Motivation #3: Always Work on Improving Your Strengths
People often wonder, Coca-Cola is one of those companies that quite possibly 99.9% of the people on the planet know about, and yet they still spend countless amounts of $$$ on various marketing strategies year after year, decade after decade, century after century. Why, when everyone already knows their product? Well, because there is always room for improvement. Roger Federer is already the greatest tennis player there ever was. Why does he have a coach? Well, there is always room for improvement. Never stop working on improving your strengths and weaknesses, and you’ll become the best version of yourself, which will be attractive like never before.

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Sunday, April 30, 2017

In Constant Bloom

"What does your boyfriend do?"

That's the question of the hour here in Springfield, every other graduate is sharing their most recent job offers and the only thing for certain in my life is that I am moving to Nashville.

"He's a music producer," I will answer, and their eyes light up. I usually kiss goodbye every opportunity to discuss my education career after that. After all, no one wants to hear about how you might be a teacher come August when you can instead tell them about the movie premier you attended last week at the Country Music Hall of Fame for Brad Paisley's visual album.

Thus begins my life as the Plus-One; the sweet, perky, well-mannered girlfriend at her musician's side. Not a single person in Springfield could see how my life could get any better. I have no job and I have no apartment, but dang, she gets to go to the coolest stuff! 

It's amazing how different the two worlds really are, seeing as I spent the past week in a city where you are ten times more interesting if you aren't in the entertainment industry. My boyfriend lives in a house with a musician and a film editor. Every friend of his I meet is an artist or editor or writer or entreprenuer. It would be far more welcomed to introduce myself as a freelance blogger than it would be to introduce myself as a teacher. That's the kind of thing his friends expect.

"I'm a kindergarten teacher," usually warrants one of two reactions:

"Why?!" is one of them, to which I will smile and explain that just as music is their gift and purpose, kiddos are mine. This reaction I understand. But the other makes my blood boil.

"Awww!" people will gush, "That's just so cute!" 

Yeah, it is cute, I suppose. We sing. We laugh. We get a lot of hugs. Our day ends at 3:30 and we get summers off. We may not get paid very much, and we aren't always very respected by the doctors and business owners and successful musicians of the world. But when these doctors and owners and musicians suddenly have a 5-year-old of their own... It becomes a lot more than cute. 

Suddenly, they're concerned with academics. How will their kids learn their letters? Numbers? Colors? Will they be able to read? Write? Count? Will they be able to use the technology tools of their generation? Will they appreciate the arts and the world around them? Will they take part in discussions and form thoughts for debate?

And what about their behavior? Where do they actually learn respect? How can you be sure they will gain responsibility? Will they be able to listen? To focus? Will they develop the positive mannerisms needed to lead, to follow, and to know when to do what in a team? Will they be kind? Helpful? Encouraging and humble?

And as if that's not enough for a new parent to worry about... When these kiddos graduate, they'll be expected to be confident. Curious. Passionate. They will need strong character and a good sense of humor. A positive mindset is key, social tact is required, and multiple interests are preferred.

I'm not in a cute profession. I'm in a beautiful profession. I don't make products to sell or medicine to distribute. My product is people. I do not do the same things doctors and business owners and musicians do, but I am the reason these professions exist, because I trained them. Could you imagine a doctor who didn't know how to read the patient chart, or couldn't locate their patient's arm to give them a shot? Could you imagine a business owner who couldn't keep up with the budget, or a musician who didn't understand counting or syllabic rhythms?

Of course not. That's what I do. That's what I teach.

And the best part is that I'm never bored. I'm never a perfect teacher. I'm always learning and changing and growing, right along with my kids. We are all flowers in the process of blooming; all learning to love ourselves despite where we are in the process of "success," as if success can truly be measured by reaching a certain point.

So no. I don't get many free passes to the Country Music Hall of Fame. But I do get to love my life every single day, because I love kids and I love learning. I love waking up and planning my own work for the day. I love never doing the same thing twice. I love getting paid to do what I've always wanted to spend my time doing. I love being in constant bloom.