March Tips: Grief, Glitter & Girls’ Night Out

Mar 12, 2024

Dear Together Friends, Fans, and Family

I’ve been thinking a lot about glitter and rainbows lately. No, I haven’t been rewatching Trolls, but I’ve been pondering the effect when we take a little time for fun, for the unexpected, for surprises. It’s one of the ways I measure my personal Balance Barometer – do I have the mental space and actual time for whimsy, and being just. . . a little extra?

I think the reason this has been on my mind recently is that I’ve been in a bit of funk since mid-fall. I haven’t spoken about it publicly with you all, but a very close mentor, colleague, and friend (and the person who hired me for my first outside-of-the-classroom job) passed away unexpectedly this fall, and I’m honestly still in shock that she is no longer with us. There was a moment when I had to delete her address from my holiday card file, and I was reminded how grief sneaks up on us in small ways when we least expect it. This grief led to the December holidays feeling hollow, and to a lot of phone calls, texts, and picture-sharing with people from that era of my life–and, I guess, a lot of reflection.

And while I’m still fighting that funk with all the ways I know, I’ve also been making a conscious effort to build more whimsy and wackiness into daily life– because the days are simply not guaranteed. There are a lot of tropes about using the nice dishes, and wearing the fancy dress, but I’m more thinking of how Togetherness can drive some Big Fun and some Little Fun. This does (surprise, surprise!) take some planning and some effort. Ask me about the homemade candied citrus peels I made this weekend to make fancy cocktails for some friends. Here are some examples I’ve observed and led over the past few months in an attempt to sprinkle some joy and levity into life.

  • Cat swim caps. I swim twice per week with my Lane Ladies (I am training for this race!), and we have an unspoken rivalry with another group of women who wear matching banana peel caps. Not to be outdone, and because we have ten cats between us, I purchased Cat Swim Caps for us – from which we gain huge delight at 6 AM pool dates.

Yes, we are cat ladies, in all the ways.

  • Real red roses on the table at NFBLME When I was in Westchester with the National Fellowship for Black and Latino Male Educators, I noticed each table was set with actual real roses. And their founder builds symbol into every single interaction, slide, photo, and video. Yes, it takes effort, time, and a budget, but it is also a bit of extra symbolism that locks an event into our memories.

A table perfectly arranged and ready for a Together Training to begin is one of my favorite things…and this one had a bonus! Roses!

  • Cousin Camp. Last year I did my usual road trip to Maine for annual Cousin Camp – with something like 15 family members across three rental houses. Since the teens refused to wear matching T-shirts, I got us all matching tie-dye bandanas, which I insisted be worn to all group outings. The SeaDogs game! The 15-mile coastal bike ride! It was a great tool to find each other – and the kids leveled up my fun by finding creative ways to wear the bandanas like around their wrists, as belts, or with fancy ponytails.

    #TogetherTech Exec was an excellent friend and happily sported her tie-dye bandana everywhere our group went in Maine!

  • Uber Eats for North Cook. We recently trained a group of student advocates (a super-cool role in North Cook County), and their supervisor, Allison, gave everyone a gift card to order Uber Eats on their way home from school after the session. This act of generosity and care brought such appreciation to our class.
  • 50th birthday party dress. My closest friends are all turning 50 in the next few years, and we have an upcoming outing at this place downtown for one of the birthday girls. While I may get dragged out well past my bedtime, we have decided it is time pull out the heels and sequins. And present our friend with haikus related to math and science due to her day job as a geneticist.
  • Unexpected yoga during an online class. Recently, we worked with the staff and faculty at The Holdsworth Center, who completely modeled their value of “Be the rainbow in a cloudy day.” Because we had a few participants who are yoga instructors, we paused class and Alex R led us in some deep breathing and stretching. What a refresh.

So, here is my challenge to you on the cloudy and sunny days alike. . . How are you bringing a little bit of glitter to work or home? Is it with whimsy? Surprises? Kindness? Something just a little extra like real roses or candied citrus peels? Does it take advance planning like the roses and the Uber Eats? Or can it be in-the-moment like a yoga break? Write me here to let me know!

#togetherforever #clipboardsandclogs


PS I’m working on a Together-Your-Summer Series of blog posts, like how an Ops team prepares for their “Summer Superbowl,” how a teacher preps for rest and learning, how a school leader preps for PD, how a family makes a summer spreadsheet of childcare, and how a nonprofit leader preps for staff transitions. You get what I mean! I would love to see your ideas and artifacts here.

Top Together Tributes  

  • Conspire and align in service of our mission. Check out this 17-min podcast from Jakada Imani. As supervisors, we are not simply productivity managers, but it is our vocation to “help others shine.”
  • Staring down that PB&J sandwich again? Lunches as teachers can be tough, whether due to inconvenient bell schedules, competing priorities, or lack of inspiration. Here are some ideas to make your lunch more enjoyable.
  • Seasonal work cycles! Our wannabe friend (gift link) Cal Newport suggests that embracing seasonality or cycles in our work could lead to less stress. Can you build buffers between any cycles to allow for a cool down? A week of no meetings after a big board retreat?