Risky Business

RISK

I had a conversation earlier this week with a friend who was frustrated with her boss.  I’ve heard plenty of stories about this particular boss, most of them anecdotes about how terrible she is at running her business, but then her employees step up and save her when it gets really rough, because they want to keep their jobs.

“Ugh!  It’s so unfair that she totally stinks at her job, yet gets to be the boss.  You could run it so much better.”

“Well,” she replied, “She’s the one that took the risk!  You have to take risks to succeed in life.  She put the money on the line to get the business, not me!”

That really got me thinking.  Do you need to take risks in order to succeed?  And, what kind of risks?  Does it have to be a monetary risk in order to catapult you to success?

This weekend, I was at a writer’s institute (you know, the one you saw me crying about in that video) and I was learning about all the different ways I could try to publish my book.  To summarize, there are 3 basic ways a book can be published:

  1.  Self-publishing:  You do everything yourself. You edit, proofread, design your own cover using an online website, and then you upload it to Amazon.  Anyone can do this, and it costs you nothing (except your time.)  You make most of your royalties, with Amazon taking a chunk.  Your book is not in physical bookstores (usually).
  2. Hybrid publishing:  There are publishing companies out there who want to help authors publish high-quality books, but don’t have the means to necessarily take the risk on you. So they take your pitch, and if they like you, they’ll work with you to get a great book out there.  However, the risk is yours because you have to pay money for their services.  This can be anywhere from a few hundred dollars, all the way to $10,000, depending on what you need.
  3. New-York publishing:  This is like trying to win American Idol.  The publishing business is WAY different from what it was, thanks to a lot of different things (e-books, self-publishing, the economy’s depression).  Nobody gives you a huge advance anymore (unless you’ve already proven you can sell a trillion books), they don’t pay for you to travel around on a book tour and go on the Today Show.  You have to be ok with risking a lot of your time, because it takes forever.  And before you can even do this, you have to find an agent who not only believes in you, but believes that your book can make money.

The book I wrote (still untitled) is a book about loss and hope.  It’s a memoir about losing my twins, and all the horrible, crappy things that came after, and then how I used my grief to find a community that helped me through.  I tell about how I flew from Wisconsin to LA to meet a stranger from the internet that had become my best friend I know, crazy, right?).

I’ve read a lot of books about grief, and I don’t find any of them to be particularly honest.  As I was writing mine, I was thinking about the things that made me feel crazy when I was dealing with loss and my subsequent pregnancies.  I wrote about them in detail.  I included photographs, texts, emails, and artifacts from that time that may really surprise you (emails from funeral directors explaining how you can’t cremate infants by themselves because they burn too fast, a relative who told me my babies died because they would have been serial killers, and ALL THE TIMES someone told me that it happened for a reason)

When my twins had just died, the only books about infant loss I could find were written by PhDs, or they were so focused on being “literary” that they left out a lot of the grit, which is what (I think) we need.  We need honesty, and transparency.  Someone to tell us that we are not alone, and that there is hope.

I don’t think I”m necessarily destined to become a New York Time’s Best-Selling Author.  However, I am so passionate about this book being read, and not just by loving friends and family who support me in whatever I do.  There’s a place for this book on the shelf.

So, what am I willing to risk?  My family’s money?  More of my time?  How far am I willing to go?

What say you?  What risks have you taken in your life?  Have they mostly worked out for you?

 

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You’ve got this, yo.

BeanBag

I recently posted this photograph on my Facebook page, with a little story that went along with it.  Basically, I was refilling my bean bag chairs, when a student sat on one, not knowing it wasn’t zipped and this happened.  For a few minutes, it actually looked like it was snowing in my classroom.  There was so much laughter and everyone jumped in to help clean up.

I received lots of comments and laughs about this picture, and just so you know, beans are still floating around in my school.  In the library, in the hallway, even in kids’ backpacks.  But, a few of the comments stuck with me.  Things like:

“I’d want my kid in your class!  I’m so glad you let them have fun!”

and

“This is what’s missing from school today:  fun.”

And you know what?  They are SO RIGHT.  Fun is important, and it’s missing from our schools these days.  So much is.  But fun can’t happen unless you are a community first.  In my opinion, neither can much work.

My goal as an educator is two-fold, to build a community and to inspire to learn.

That’s it.  That’s what I’m trying to do.  And let me tell you, it’s SO HARD.  Teaching 22 9- year-olds how to be a family, when some of them don’t have a family of their own?  That’s hard.  Inspiring kids to learn who go home and play video games until they are actually sick to their stomach?  That’s tough, too.

But, the thing is, it’s what gets me up in the morning.  It is NOT test scores, or reading levels, or interventions, it’s the connection that I make with the kids in my class.  I take my job seriously, and I look at the data and I do everything I can to help kids get what they need.  My primary focus, though, is showing kids that when you work together, you can do anything.

Every other Friday afternoon, my class does acknowledgments.  So, we sit in a circle, and someone starts, and we say things like, “I acknowledge Joey for helping me with my math project,” and “I acknowledge Sam for playing 4 square with me when no one else wanted to.”  And then, at the end, I go around the circle and I acknowledge every single kid in my class.  I tell them how they inspired me this week. I tell them how proud I am of them.  I even tell them that though they messed up this week and got in trouble in music class, I’m proud of how they handled it, and I’m sure it won’t happen again.

And, you know what?

There is a clear dichotomy in my classroom.  The kids who are told this at home, told this by their parents and family members, and truly believe that they are good, they grin from ear to ear while I talk about them.  Their eyes dance and their cheeks turn pink with pleasure.

The other half, though.  The other half, they are the ones that never hear this.  They are the ones who have no idea what they are worth.  And they don’t smile when I talk about them.  They cry.  Tears spring to their eyes and they lock eye contact with me, and they don’t let go.

Those every-other-Friday acknowledgments (which I’m technically skipping social studies to do, so don’t tell anyone) are why I stay in this job, even though I am EXHAUSTED and so tired of the politics and people who don’t understand at all what it’s like to be responsible for these little lives making all the decisions.  I stay because I can make my class a family. We have inside jokes, and they know lots of stuff about me.

They know I’m writing a book about losing twins, and they think it’s awesome.  They checked in with me every day to see if I got my audition for Listen to your Mother.  They ask what silly things my kids have done lately. And in turn, I know that one boy’s mom just got a new boyfriend, and he’s kinda mean. And a girl who never sees her mom is getting to spend Easter with her and she’s excited.  I know who wants a hover-board for her birthday, and who likes to draw dragons.

This is what life is made of, folks.  Having fun, sure—but mostly, building relationships.  It’s more important than anything else.  Certainly more important than how they do on a math test, but we care about that, too, because we are in it together.

Our schools are missing this community building.  We’re stuck to teaching a certain amount of minutes of each subject, barely leaving time for recess, let alone a morning meeting to welcome your class.  We need to be responsive to our classrooms, because when we’re not…we’re not being responsive to kids.  We aren’t teaching them the skills they need to get along in this crazy world.

Teachers out there, you keep doing what you are doing.  We will get through this, somehow.  And don’t forget to have fun, although I do not recommend refilling bean bags to achieve this.  🙂

You’ve got this, yo!  

 

Listen to Your Mother

You guys!!!!

Remember the thing I auditioned for?

Well…my story was chosen!  I am full of mixed emotions about this.  Grateful, of course, and like I told you before, it’s something I really, really wanted to happen.

But I’m also extremely nervous.  The story I wrote is about losing my twin babies, and as much as I want other moms to hear this story, the fact that I have to tell it is seriously scary.

I guess it’s like they say, if it doesn’t make you totally freaked out, it’s probably not worth it!  Right???

Does it make me brave?  I’m not sure.  I’m told pretty often by people who know me that I’m brave for sharing my story, which has always kind of confused me.  I don’t feel brave.  I certainly don’t feel strong.  The only thing I feel is this strong urge to help other people remember that they are not alone.  That their story is unique, but their grief can be shared.

So much of what happens in this world we keep for ourselves.  We own it and we think we are being brave by “handling” it ourselves.  There’s a sort of pride in doing it by yourself, alone, and not “bothering” anyone.  I wish this would change.  I wish it were the strong thing to do to reach out and tell someone what you’re going through, instead of trying to go it alone.

We need each other.  We can’t forget the power of “Me, too!”  We are all searching for that feeling of belonging, whether it has to do with the things we love, or the things that scare us, or the feelings we have.

I teach 9 and 10 year olds, but I’ve taught high schoolers, and middle schoolers, too, and at every age level it’s so easy to see that the things we struggle with as kids never really do go away.  No matter what kind of life we lead, there is pain, and longing, and there is an ease and comfort in knowing that we are not alone.

We are never alone.  That’s what I am hoping to share with my story about my twins.  I need your luck, ok?  April 28th will be here before I know it!

Xo