Tuesday, September 28, 2010


As a sat down with my bowl of cereal this morning the other morning, I was flipping through a magazine and came across an article on mantras. The author (do you call them an author? Maybe editor, writer?) Well, the lady that wrote the article was a very accomplished athlete who competed in rowing and ran marathons. At first, I was all, "oh she's one of those crazy overachieving types." I met a few of those nuts at Saint Olaf. The ones that track genetic inheritance, run 15 miles, perform symphonies and then volunteer at the hospital all on Wednesday before intramural kickball. Then she went on to discuss how during some of the most challenging moments in her life, she found herself using mantras to push her to complete or focus on the tasks at hand. The act of reciting a phrase over and over again, would give her the focus and determination she needed to overcome fear, push through "the wall," or keep it together when life became chaotic. It has been proven that by focusing on a mantra, you can divert your thoughts enough to become significantly less aware of the factors that might otherwise hold you back. 

Duh, right? Pretty sure I learned the same thing in Shrek when Donkey was crossing the bridge from the castle. 

"Don't look down, don't look down..." 

Then before you know it, he has made it all the way to the other side. All he had to do was focus on the words instead of on the fear. This is like life strategies for first graders here. Apparently, however, we are not giving this practice enough credit though. A mantra or repeated phrase can help you overcome pain, fear, frustration and can even help get you butt to the gym. 

"No more noodle arms, no more noodle arms..." 

...and BAM before I've had a chance to talk myself out of it, I'm pumping iron at the Y. Now, I realize that I might be using this term too loosely. In reality a mantra is a very spiritual tradition practiced in many religions. Guys, I don't actually know much about this at all. I'd love to learn though, so let me know if you've got the inside scoop. I have shared a few "Om's" in yoga a few times, but I am going to go out on a limb here and say that's it's really not the same thing. For now, I am just focusing on the power of the spoken word and the ability to refocus one's thoughts by simply repeating a "mantra."

I think this will be a really good tool for me. I have been struggling lately with too many goals and I am finding myself falling victim to the inevitable burnout that comes with trying to do too much at once. There's school, work, getting to the YMCA 12 times a month, trying to eat healthier, staying organized at home, spending less money, planning meals better, reading all those books before they are due back at the library, using fewer paper towels, those pants that need hemming, coaching skiing this winter, and then the endless list of projects that I would love to get done. Yeesh! Not sure why I have this overwhelming desire to try to to do everything well. I obviously can't to everything well. I can work at a few things and that's it, and yet I set the bar high for everything. Dumb. Maybe it's a symptom of a quarter life crisis? I've been doing all this questioning of my purpose and so on and so forth, so I can see that maybe being the root of all this. Either way, I need a tool to help me prioritize and focus. I need to start utilizing the mantra. I can see this working really well with the way my brain works. I am so easily distracted and tend to become completely fixated on something if it sparks my interest. If that something happens to be reorganizing my closet on a night when my Physics homework is due, my brain is very good at rationalizing the closet over the homework. In that moment before I decide to reorganize the closet, when I still have self-control, I am going to break out the mantra...

"School comes first, school comes first..."

I may or may not regress into one of those crazy people that is always talking to themselves. Just a warning.

And so I come to Desiderata. My Dad gave me a framed print of this poem as a gift when I graduated from college. My Dad always seems to know what I need well before I do. When I look at it, I always think about how perfect the words are. It was something that I had intended to read on a regular basis, but of course, in my quest to do everything, I end up looking at it very infrequently. No more. This can be my mantra. Maybe if I actually take Dad's advice and try reading and even reciting this poem on a more regular basis, it will help me refocus on what is important. Let go of the noise and haste and just focus on what I can do right instead of what I should be improving. 

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Friday, September 17, 2010

One of those days...

You guys. I'm just having one of those days. Friday's are supposed to be happy and I have been looking forward to this weekend for a long time, but it looks like I'll be working extra hard for it. Ugg. I guess these days just happen though. I mean, what will this day matter in five years, right!?! 

I need a glass of wine.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Deep Thoughts by Kate

I discovered some things recently that have made me very aware of my limited time here on earth and the potential that each days holds. Uh oh... Kate's gettin' all deep and philosophical. That's right people. If your not in the mood to jump into some deep self-reflection with me, I suggest hopping over to the kiddy pool at AFP and reflecting on someone else's life. Nothing too emotionally stirring there. The deepest thoughts I ever had while viewing other people's awkward family photos was "Oh geeeez! I totally rocked the greek column during my own senior photos session too!"

It began when I stumbled on this "scarf calendar" over at Swissmiss. Cute right? Somehow the longer I looked at it though, the more it began to represent my own brief existence. My inability to redo the past. The shortening of the scarf that is my life. Wuhhhhh Wuhhhaaaa! Debbie Downer!

Then, a couple days later, I discovered a site called Thought Questions where they continuously post really thought provoking questions set to beautiful photographs. These things suck me in. Part of me looks at them and is reminded of those lame motivation posters. You know the ones. They have a whole line of ironic/mocking versions... and for good reason. But then the other easily influenced/gullible side of me starts actually trying to answer these deep life questions.

Really guys - WHAT WILL THIS DAY MATTER IN FIVE YEARS!? I spent thirty-five dollars on a new haircut yesterday nobody even noticed today. I could have fed a starving child in Africa for like three months with that money. UGH!!!How many days would I go back and do differently if I could? What's holding me back from making the choices that I really want to make deep down. The other question I frequently come back to is, "If I could duplicate myself into life-coach kate and self-Kate, how would I direct my own life? What advice would I have for myself? How would I tell myself to live my best life possible?" 

I frequently think about these questions in regards to my future students too. I am already worried about them. I still remember what it was like to be in high school, but now that I'm on the other side of it, it's easier to see the hang ups and "major" obstacles for what they really were. I worry about the kids that I will undoubtably encounter that hold themselves back. The ones that can't see past high school or don't believe in their own potential. How can I get them to take a step back and start directing their own lives and making choices to live their best life? It's amazing the hope that people will have for others, but will then deny themselves. I think I found a tool that might help me address this in my future classroom though. A way to step out of oneself and give that inner voice an actual way to talk back. It's called Future Me and it's a website that allows you to send yourself messages in the future. Brilliant! Who knows you better than yourself, and how great to be able to remind yourself of your goals, weaknesses, and inspirations than - yourself! I sent future Kate an email congratulating her completing her master's program and reminded her of why she became passionate about this stuff in the first place! Way to go future Kate!

So, what will this day matter in five years? Will I even remember it in six months? Will I have at least made choices that will have have a positive impact on the future me? I suppose I could write future me an email and remind myself of today and the choices I made for future me and the choice that I hope future me will have made. I only get to do today once. Each of us only has one life and we only get one shot at today. Me, I'm going to go do some yoga tonight and improve the health of future me... but first I'm going to go climb my way out of these deep thoughts by giggling at some babies dressed as Chippendales on AFP...

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Not sure why Blogger won't let me format anything right. I hope this doesn't mean that all my posts are going to become gigantic paragraphs. Sorry peeps. I'll try to fix it later.

Geeking it up

Yesterday, when my friend Jean emailed me to ask if I wanted to be her badminton partner in a Mpls Community Ed Co-Rec league, I did a little happy dance at my desk. I love playing badminton and I'm actually pretty good. This fall, Jean and I will be spending Monday night in the Southwest high gym, mowing down the competition.

"Badminton!?" You ask, "What kind of a loser plays competitive badminton!?"

Me. And people - it's not the first time. I'll let you in on a little secret. I'm used to be a huge nerd. Not only was I on the badminton team in high school, I was on the exhibition squad. No, that does not mean that we went streaking through the gym with rackets, it means we weren't good enough for varsity... or J.V....or J.V. B squad. Good old Burnsville Senior High had a three-time State Championship badminton team when I joined in the ninth grade and they were on their way to a fourth, so there were a lot of wannbees like me who signed up and ended up spending most meets in the hall outside the gym unwrapping Starburst in our mouths (much to the chagrin of our orthodontists) with the hope that someday it would improve out make-out skills. This was all very unnecessary and ironic as none of us were obviously going to be making out with anybody. It's okay, go ahead (if you haven't already) and make an "L" with your fingers on your forehead.

When I wasn't playing badminton, I also enjoyed soccer and skiing. I missed a lot of social events for skiing. People would just forget I existed in the winter because I was gone every weekend and, between the homework and practices, there wasn't really any time to catch up with friends during the week either. I would get invited to stuff in the beginning of the year, but then people would finally give up, and come the late winter and spring dances, the invites had ceased completely. The first time I went to a dance was when I accompanied my friend Emily to Homecoming. She had to go because she got voted the honor of singing the "Homecoming song." But she didn't have a date. I wore one of her sisters old dresses, we showed up, she sang, we stood by the wall for a while like we were in a cliche scene from a Molly Ringwald 80's flick, and then we went to her house and watched movies with our hair in fancy up do's. The next year she became Homecoming Queen and I ended up at home again watching movies at home with less fancy hair.

What probably solidifies my role as uber-geek the most, however, was my role as President of the Science Club. Well, that and maybe a few other things like the peer-tutoring, National Honor Society membership, Science Quiz Bowl, or maybe Yearbook... which I only participated in because I was sick of them getting the nordic and alpine skiing pages confused every year. It was the coolest thing I had going for me and the least they could do was label it correctly in the yearbook. But the Science Club thing was really what did me in. I had a reputation and it stuck. Now, I am becoming a science teacher, and I don't know that I will ever attain my goal of becoming one of the cool kids. I really thought I had shaken the nerd status in college when I started buying pants with appropriate inseams and started getting invited to parties again... but alas, I cannot deny who I really am. I am a geek. I've even decided to start attending what is really just an adult version of the science club. It's called Cafe Scientific and it's at the Bryant Lake Bowl. I am super excited because we get to talk about science, but also because cool kids hang at the BLB and maybe they will notice me in the hall and say hi.

So, I guess all I want to say is that I have come full circle. I am back in the science club. Back on the badminton court. Still missing parties to go skiing. I am a nerd and I am proud of it. And despite all the social awkwardness, I found a very cute boy that is just as geeky in his own way, and we have a pretty good time together just geeking out. I realized this last weekend, as I was working on my physics homework and noticed him sitting on the couch, reading about Caravaggio, listening to NPR and wearing his safari hat. And then last night he told me he was going over to friends house next week to learn how to play Dungeons and Dragons. Match made in heaven.

You can take the braces off the geeky kid, but behind that straight set of teeth, there will always be a geek...