Sep 01 2017

Anxiety and gifted adulting and aw hell get me off this rock

My emotional over-excitabilities are at a forest fire level lately.

Kinda like a red-flag warning, EF5 tornado of red-hot flame, tearing across the prairie to Laura and Pa level of out of control.

I am supremely proud of the fact that I have not lost my shit 1) online, 2) with my sons, 3) with random people out in the big, bad world.

It’s because of the big, bad world that I am on edge.

But I lose my shit with myself daily. Hourly. Between thoughts.

The daily news cycle is a fustercluck of epic proportions. I literally jump when my phone dings with any kind of notification.

I’m so deep into focused breathing that you’d think I was in the middle of giving birth. #GodForbid #NotStartingOver #LetUsNotEvenJokeAboutIt

We talk so much about over-excitabilities with our gifted kids. But you know? Just like our kids don’t quit being gifted when they graduate, they don’t hand over the over-excitabilities in exchange for that diploma. Giftedness is wiring, it is lifelong, and it tiptoes through the generations. The OEs they have when they are four years old and losing their shit and you’re wondering if you’re going to let them live to see age five are the same OEs they will have when they are 24 and 34 and 84. And I guarandamntee that you, as a parent of a gifted child, are drenched in your own over-excitabilities. Like bathing in cheap cologne some days, I swear.

I know that I am tightly wound, that my main squeeze is emotional OE. But you know what? It also makes me a damned fine musician, and sometimes a fairly decent writer. I’m also dipped in the imaginational OE pot, which helps me interpret music and sometimes allows me to write something good-ish. Those are the silver linings to the two craptastic OEs that plague me. Because the stormy side of that cloud is that I am easily affected by the pain of the world (and dearsweetbabyjesusonaliferaft there is a lot of that these days) and can imagine myself (or my sons) living in a van down by the river in two steps or less.

Anxiety, yo. It’s a thing. So is gifted adulting. I’m really over both.

Yes, I turn the news off, and yes, I get off social media, and yes, I engage in all manners of self-care. Helps enough to keep me functional right now.

But I keep an eye to the sky, wondering when the aliens are going to arrive, because that’s all we need to complete the absolute dystopian shitfest we find ourselves in these days.

Hope they like marshmallows. We can make s’mores over the flames of my OEs before they annihilate us.

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Today’s post is part of Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page September blog hop, on philosophical and spiritual anxiety. My anxiety was so through the roof that I couldn’t expound upon it very well, so please go read the other writers’ posts.

Toast some marshmallows while you read.

Aug 24 2017

When your 2e kid is a non-traditional learner

Office of Redundancy Department Administration
File under: High Priority
Tag: DUH!

Of course your 2e kid is a non-traditional learner, that’s practically the description of 2e. That’s why they struggle in school, that’s why they struggle with life, that’s why we pulled Andy to homeschool 5 1/2 years ago. When he was a toddler, he was king of “ME DO IT!” and god help you and the neighborhood if you got in his way. He had to do it himself and had to figure it out himself. “He marches to the beat of his own drummer” was floated to us at his first preschool parent/teacher conference. Over a dozen years later and I’m still grateful that his preschool teacher truly grokked what he was about and accommodated him easily. If only all his teachers had been like that… His drummer has only gotten louder and stronger and more confident.

Non-traditional learners are the outliers now, when that used to be how people learned. You know, before education became the factory system it is today. Hands-on learning, apprenticeships, that sort of thing. Granted, that was also back before child labor laws, but go with me on this. We (as a society and culture) push kids through the school system, shaming them for their weaknesses and thinking we’ll get to their strengths if and when the weaknesses are shored up. We (as a society and culture) rush them into college, to spend another four years trying to figure out what to do, to graduate with a hefty chunk of student loan debt. We (as a society and culture) look askance at tradesmen and women, at people who work with their hands, at people who do the behind the scenes dirty work that keeps the aforementioned society and culture chugging along.

Not all students need to go to college. Not all gifted kids need to go to college. And not all 2e kids need to go to college.

At least, not traditionally.

Tom and I have been talking about college for a couple years now, figuring out how we feel about the boys and their futures, whatever they may be. And it hit me that I am the outlier in my family. On both sides of my family, going back generations, I am the only one who went the “traditional” college route of high school straight into higher education. My dad was an older college student, married and a father by the time he got his degrees; his parents barely had 8th grade educations. My brother took 20 years to get his degree, his wife traveled the most zig-zag path to becoming a physician’s assistant I’ve ever seen. My cousins, all non-traditional college students. Tom is much the same; his siblings took alternative routes to college, and they’re both highly educated and well employed. He and I are the outliers in our families, going from high school into four year (ok…music education is and was a five year program) colleges, eventually into masters degrees.

So why do we expect that our boys will do that? They surely don’t need to.

Andy has taken the next step in his homeschooling journey. He started at our county’s Tech Campus last week, a fantastic vocational school, to study computer systems for the next two years. He’ll earn college credit (I big puffy heart LOVE YOU, dual enrollment!), learn professional skills (which will help shore up his executive function weaknesses), and get a strong sense of what working in the computer industry is about. He wants to go into cybersecurity, so this knowledge will be a solid foundation on which to build. Will he then go on to a “traditional” four year college? Will he do a two year program closer to home? Will he start his own gig? Seriously, the kid has started writing viruses for fun, so he can see how to crack them. He also hacks together computer hardware to…ok, for real I have no freaking clue what he does, but he speaks with great confidence and authority and people who actually understand the words coming from his talk-hole are impressed. We don’t know his next step in life, and we’re ok with whatever he decides.  Besides, in technology, most of what he learns his first year will probably be obsolete by the time he graduates.

So as has been the case for the last dozen years, this 2e asynchronous non-traditional learner is forging his own path with pure curiosity and strength of will. But for the first time, I’m slightly more confident that he will be okay.

It’s all going to be okay.

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Aug 08 2017

Down on my knees

There is a level of gratitude so rare that it is nearly impossible to describe. It is so deep and so profound that it reaches into your soul, digs in its tendrils, and squeezes until you cannot breathe or think and all you can do is fall to your knees. Fall to your knees, curl into a tight ball, and breathe gratitude into the air around you. Everyone has a different threshold for that kind of gratitude, and I’d say it changes based on the situation. If I’d been ill and had just gotten a clean bill of health, that would absolutely be this level of gratitude. But sometimes it’s an improvement on something that had been so hard for so long and now it’s not and my god the change is stunning and you just…fall to your knees.

Because that is all you can do.

This past weekend the SENG conference was in Chicago. I attended and presented, but this year, because of the close proximity to home, Andy was a volunteer. He helped out whenever and wherever the organizers needed and was happy to do so. I never saw him without a smile on his face, just doing what needed to be done. (Kid badly needed a haircut, don’t know what the hell his mother was thinking…I need to have a talk with that woman, she’s raising him weird). This complex 2e child who had me rocking under my desk sobbing more than once in the last dozen years stepped up and volunteered for the organization that was most responsible for his parents getting him to the point that he could step up and volunteer. He was courteous and helpful and prompt and responsible and polite and kind. So, SO many people knew him and knew his story from this blog, and yet he was not embarrassed by it, and in fact played along with that fact. “Yes, hi, I’m A and you all know me.” He made connections and shook hands and took business cards and has ideas and projects lined up. Of all the people who attended the SENG conference this weekend, I am convinced Andy left the most changed.

And I fall to my knees.

I curl into a ball and breathe gratitude into the air around me.

I do not rock and sob under my desk.

Instead there is a new sensation, that of curling tendrils of profound gratitude weaving their way into the deepest depths of my soul. The infant who rarely slept, the young child who would routinely lose his shit, the schoolboy misunderstood by educators, the kid struggling to make sense of his world…had coalesced into this amazing young man in front of me, strong and sure because of the struggles he overcame.

I hardly know what to do, I’ve been so accustomed to challenges with this kid, that all I can do is give thanks with every breath. These improvements have been building over the last couple of years, positive incremental changes occasionally alternating with setbacks, but this weekend provided the outside perspective I so needed to see how far he really has come.

Next year SENG is in San Diego and I have been informed, in no uncertain terms, that he will be attending even if I do not. Guess I know what our family vacation is next year; maybe we can roll a few college visits into that trip.

When the days were dark and my child was suffering and I couldn’t see how things would ever get any better, I rocked under my desk and sobbed.

Today I fall to my knees, curl into a tight ball, and breathe gratitude.

Aug 01 2017

The elder I want to be

I wasn’t originally going to write about today’s topic of gifted elders. I’m not a gifted elder, I didn’t want to write about my parents, and I didn’t think I had anything to contribute to the topic. But a long conversation with several women whose opinions I deeply respect convinced me otherwise. And so here I am today, writing about gifted elders, and my hopes and plans for making it to that stage of life myself.

I’m just shy of 44 years old, and if I’m lucky I have another 40 years ahead of me. Again, if I’m lucky. There are a great number of lifestyle changes that I need to make for me to actually make it into my 80’s, and frankly I’m not feeling many of them.

I started thinking about the kind of gifted woman I wanted to be as I ease into my later years. Wise old crone came to mind. Full of things like wisdom, and peace with oneself, and the ability to give back to the world. So I decided to put together a list of things I would like to have in my life and things I would need to do to become that wise old crone, that gifted elder.

This is my list.

Exercise. Not for a bikini body (that ship sailed so long ago it rusted and sank), but for improved health. Mental, emotional, physical health.

Learn something new every day. Try something new every day. My dad has modeled that his entire life.

Everything in moderation, including moderation. You will pry my wine from my cold, dead hands.

Laugh every day. If you’re not laughing, you’re dying inside. Dude, find the humor, you’ll thank me later.

Develop something resembling a life balance, whatever works for you for self-care.

Have friends who are different from you; this can include age, generation, backgrounds, culture, and general life outlook.

Find and develop ways to give back, whether it’s in a community, an organization, or something that just touches other people.

Determine when it’s really important to give a fuck, and when it’s really not, and be sure you follow that religiously. Respect peoples’ feelings, not necessarily their opinions. Very freeing, that.

Practice active gratitude. Several years in I’m still posting my Best Things About Today. Some days I’m really digging deep to find something positive, and last year I took several months off because I just.couldn’t.do.it. But I returned and it’s one of the

Surround yourself with people and things that you love, that bring you peace and joy. Then center yourself there and live outwards.

Protect yourself from overload. And if that means that you have to cancel the cable subscription, or turn off the radio, or set boundaries around certain people, or basically become a bit of a hermit, you gotta do it. Your life is far too valuable to be sucked up into the craziness and chaos of the world. If you’re depleted you can’t give back.

So how am I doing on my list to age into that wise old woman? In some areas I’m doing really well, and in others I just really really suck. That’s pretty par for the course with anything in my life, because you know, I’m human. Of course I’m going to improve things like exercise, eating better, reducing stress in my life, and improving life balance and self-care. I’m not perfect, of course not, but if I want to make it to wise old crone status, I’m sure as hell going to have to improve some things in my life or I’m just not going to have the physical ability to be there. I want to be a woman who can lift heavy equipment if necessary, chase my grandchildren, who can do what is needed and necessary when it is needed and necessary. And the only way I can do that is by getting the practice in now. Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes better. And that’s all I can hope to do, get better at the skills that I will need to age well.

That’s all I really want.

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Today’s post is part of August’s Hoagie’s Gifted Education blog hop, on the topic of gifted elders. There are other writers posting on this topic who are far more eloquent than I, and I highly encourage you to go read their thoughts on the topic.

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Jul 17 2017

Never say never…but this time I mean it

 

The universe has laughed and smacked me upside the head every time I’ve ever said “never” about something. Don’t believe me?

Never leaving Colorado (HAHAHA! 2011)
Never homeschooling (HAHAHA 2012)
Never moving again (HAHAHA 2015)

See? You’d think I’d learn. I say “never,” the universe takes that as a challenge and cracks its knuckles, I find myself trussed to four horses headed in opposite directions. There’s a reason I don’t say “never” about returning to a classroom and just keep renewing my Illinois teaching certificate.

But I really, truly, hand to god and the founding fathers mean it this time.

I am never, ever, EVER painting a room inside my house ever again.

There are other home improvements on deck that involve paint, like a wooden tray I found at a yard sale and my front door, but a room? In which I live? I will not apply paint to another wall in any home in which I reside ever again so help me.

Tom and I just finished painting half the house. This is the fourth home we’ve painted together, and by far the most difficult. We’re blaming the high ceilings and sheer square footage, and not the fact that we’re 20 years older than the first time we cracked open a gallon of Behr. And when I say half the house, I mean we painted: two hallways, my loft office, the kitchen, the family room, the master bedroom, the master bathroom, and the master closet. Walls, ceilings, trim, doors. Six different colors, two coats (but not on the ceiling and trim/doors, because even we have limits). Crap, upon further review that’s actually more than half the house. My hands are so sore and swollen that I still can’t get my rings back on, and my hips are grousing about the amount of time spent curled up on the floor painting trim. I had a flute student stare at the bruises on my legs and ask if they were from painting. Yes, yes they are, dear child. I acknowledge that my lower limbs resemble a blotched giraffe, but that’s what happens when you’re prone to bruising and lean your body weight against ladders and step stools so you don’t fall on your ass, which would piss you off because of the paint in the carpet and not because of the hospital stay. Oh, and we cleaned the carpets after painting and before moving furniture back in, because they were filthy and I am a glutton for home improvement punishment.

In fact, I am so 100% certain that I will never paint again that while I cut in yet another wall I mentally created a list of things I would be inclined to do instead.

French braid my nose hairs.
Count to infinity using only prime numbers.
Waterski on my face.
Jump out of a perfectly functional plane.
Dress for a formal event without the assistance of Spanx.
Go on a gluten bender. Though if I were to do that, I’d start with Chinese dim sum and just eat my way around the world.
Get a full color 3D tattoo of current occupant on my ass, wearing a #MAGA hat and having a “grownup tickle fight” with Putin.

You can see I’ve really thought this through, which happens when you’re painting for nearly three weeks straight; low VOC or not, the fumes really get to you. Our living room, banister, and laundry room still need painting but we’re hiring that shit out. We don’t own scaffolding to reach the top of the room, the banister needs repair on top of paint and stain, and the laundry room floor needs replaced before anything else.

I considered burning my painting clothes (16 year old maternity shirt covered in the paint of three different homes, and a pair of cutoff sweatpants that I think were from high school and I suspect have some “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” magic shit going on because they really should NOT fit), but they’re so saturated with latex at this point that a bonfire would be a hazmat situation. Or they would just stand there in the flames like the undead, mocking me and my plans to never, ever paint another room in which I live.

I’m saying never. And this time I really, truly mean it.

Jul 01 2017

The seesaw of boredom and burnout


You will rarely hear me say that I’m bored. I don’t get bored easily, so it’s hard to remember the last time I was someplace and wanted to chew my leg off to escape. I can sit and stare out the window on long trips and get lost in my own mind (and being a parent, this is delightful). Snowed in? Bring it (there’s always wine in the house). Forced into a meeting on something 1) I don’t understand and don’t give half a golden shit about, 2) know everything about, or 3) does not involve me in the slightest…AHA! That’s close to boredom for me, though I’m more likely to call it angry frustration over boredom. A billion and one things I could and should be doing and I’m stuck, can’t even play in my own head? Yeah.

But burnout. Man, I know all about burnout, I fall into that pit far too often. Most recently towards the end of the school year, right at the end of May. It’d been a long and busy spring. Tom travels most weeks February through May (and works 14+ hour days when he’s home), I was involved in more volunteer activities, the boys had their things, my flute studio was booming, the country was setting itself on fire as it wove the basket carrying it on the greased slide to hell… By the time I hit Memorial Day I was 31 flavors of burned out. Fold, put a fork in me, no mas. I guesstimate I land in the burnout pit at least four times a year. I’m getting good at the entries, making them showier. I may try for a double tuck back roll through a pack of velociraptors during a lighting storm next time. I could sell tickets, pay for the recovery wine.

I don’t recall being like this until college, and then boom! I’d get to end of every semester and literally just sit and shake when it was over. Gradually it got to the point that I was hauling my sorry ass over the finish line, grateful to have survived. November 1998. Third of four grad school semesters. Wind ensemble concert. BIG concert. I had a jazz solo that terrified me (it did not go so well…didn’t listen to the recording for FIFTEEN years…and it was every bit as horrific as I remembered). Got through the concert and crashed hard and big and ugly. It was bad.

Now burnout doesn’t follow a school schedule as reliably as it once did. Damn. At least then I could pencil in the recovery time. Now it hits whenever my mental/physical/emotional energy hits an unexpected low, often with little to no warning. I rarely know when burnout will send me flipping into the pit. It’s taken a toll on my health, and is why I’m becoming more vocal about preventative self-care.

I wonder if those in the gifted community are more prone to this than others. We’re good at many things, and have a tendency to take on too much. I’ve always had too much going on (link to cloaks in many closets). Then, because we refuse to fail at something (especially a schedule or situation of our own making), we overwork ourselves to the point of burnout. Put our own needs last. Little sleep, even less downtime. I see this all the time with my flute students, and it kills me. I can understand why they do that to themselves, they believe that they need a packed resume to get into college. Adults? I think we just can’t say no to our brains’ desire to learn and be challenged and to try new things. Because if we said no…we might get bored.

As I wrote this post (which is long past deadline for the blog hop, because overwhelmed), I was also canning 20 quarts of strawberries, writing other posts to schedule for later this summer, teaching 18 flute lessons a week, beginning to plan my fall schedule, and prepping half the house to paint. Literally half the house, including my office and our bedroom. Sleep? Not a whole lot. Downtime? Even less. Burnout imminent? We’ll see.

There’s a fine balance between boredom and burnout, and I’m getting better at finding it. I’ve discovered that it’s a see-saw and I ride that sucker like a bucking bronco. I’m white-knuckling the handles right now; maybe one day I’ll have the courage to ride one-handed and swing my hat around as I hoot and holler at the top of my lungs.

In the meantime, it’s a helluva ride.

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Today’s post is part of of the July blog hop run by Hoagie’s Gifted Education Page. There are a lot of talented people writing on this topic, and I encourage you to go check them out.

 

Jun 13 2017

Even grownups need blanket forts

A few weeks ago, on the cusp of final exams, one of my flute students came into her lesson, collapsed onto the chair and wearily declared:

“When I’m done with finals I’m building a blanket fort and binge-watching Netflix for 12 hours.”

It’s been that kind of spring for all of my students.

It’s been that kind of spring (and winter) for all the adults I know.

It’s been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad several months for most of the country and we’re all feeling it.

I thought the blanket fort idea was so brilliant that I literally assigned it to every single one of my students that week. I shared it with my friends on Facebook, and more than one teacher sighed with longing and said they would do it too.

Oh, the best of intentions. I really and truly intended to build my blanket fort the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend, to crawl in and read and watch bad TV and color in my profanity-laced adult coloring book and growl at anyone who dared disturb me. The road to hell is paved with good intentions…my road to hell is not only paved with good intentions but has lovely landscaping as well. While I did finally snatch a Saturday from the jaws of productivity to sit on the couch and not do a damned thing, I am still sans blanket fort.

Remember building blanket forts as a kid? Gathering up the old blankets and couch cushions and card tables to create a kid-sized hidey-hole? I did that a lot as a kid; I remember listening to the original Star Wars soundtrack on a Fisher-Price record player, over and over and over, while camped out in a blanket fort. My brother and I built so many forts that my parents just gave up on ever having their card table back. They were cozy and kid-sized and private.

Why did we stop? Even grownups need blanket forts.

Man Caves and She Sheds are the adult equivalent, I guess, but they lack the coziness and certainly lack the creativity of designing and building it yourself. Plus I don’t have a few thousand dollars propping up a table leg to throw at something like that. I do have blankets and couch cushions and card tables and the deep desire to be left alone for a few hours.

So this summer I vow to build a blanket fort. Hopefully it’ll fall on a stormy day, which makes them even cozier and more fun. I’ll dig out my supplies and gather my entertainment and be a kid again for a few hours. I may even let the boys join me, which kinds defeats the privacy part but jacks up the memory points by a factor of a million. We’ll listen to music and read and color and eat snacks and watch TV and just let the outside world burn for an afternoon.

Go build. Ignore adult responsibilities and the world outside your flannel walls. Make some memories. Life kinda sucks out there right now, so I’m assigning blanket forts to everyone.

Blanket forts. Soothing the inner child since forever.

May 11 2017

{Book Review} Micro-Schools: Creating Personalized Learning on a Budget

I’m privileged to have a foot in both the homeschooling and public schooling worlds. I have a 7th grader in public school, a homeschooling high schooler, and I teach flute lessons to all ages, from all educational settings. And what I see is disturbing.

The students I have in public high school are so stressed and overwhelmed I truly do not know how they can function. These are teens from several different high schools, from a wide variety of socioeconomic backgrounds and locations from rural to urban. They’re in multiple activities, sports, AP classes. Many of them don’t actually start homework until after 9 pm; dude, by that point I’m usually crawling into bed with mindless reading material. Teenagers need more than four hours a sleep a night, and there is really no reason for anyone to have to do multiple hours of homework after a full day of school. They often start their school days at 7 am and don’t stop until midnight or later. I’ve had more than one student mention choosing sleep over homework, only to have to catch up the next day.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

There’s been a quiet revolution going on in education, growing out of homeschooling, and we’ve been lucky to be involved.

Micro-schools.

My friend Jade has opened several micro-schools for G2e kids in California. She describes micro-schools thusly:

Micro-Schooling is the minimalist movement in education.

Micro-schools are designed to run lean with very little overhead and expenditures, while providing only the opportunities, services, and materials that are going to truly contribute to a child’s education, with a heavy emphasis on connection — connection with oneself, others, and the world.

This last year Andy has been involved in a teen co-op. It wasn’t until I read Jade’s book, Micro-Schools: Creating Personalized Learning on a Budget (affiliate link) that I realized that he was participating in a new micro-school. I then proceeded to throw her book at the school’s leaders, and then promptly forgot that I’d write a review of the book. Look, if I’m throwing books at people, that’s a good sign that I like and recommend the book, yes? Sadly, it’s not a lot of use to people who are not within throwing distance of my arm, hence today’s long-tardy review.

Imagine a smallish gathering of younguns. Imagine them learning in a group space, at their own pace, with the accommodations they need to grow and thrive. Imagine them learning, not just memorizing and regurgitating information for an exam, but making connections to previous knowledge and to their own lives. Imagine a teacher who facilitates learning, someone not at the mercy of standardized tests, an educator who meets students where they are and guides them forward. Imagine an educational philosophy that puts a student’s social-emotional growth on the same level as their intellectual growth. Imagine a setting in which students’ sensitivities are respected. Imagine all this…and then know that this is the kind of micro-school Jade has started, and her book outlines how to create your own.

Yes, Micro-Schools: Creating Personalized Learning on a Budget is a handy guide to starting a micro-school in your community. See why I was throwing it at people? (By the way, the people running the teen co-op were already doing most of what Jade suggests…WIN!) I envision micro-schools as being the next step in education, and Jade is at the forefront. While her book is focused on a set up for G2e students, it can easily be adapted to any population.

As a society, we’re looking for more personalization in our lives, to be seen, to simplify. For the last few decades, schools have become larger, packed with students in a factory model. They’ve been too large to do much other than shepherd students through for several years. Micro-schools are the antithesis of this, and their time has come. Jade Rivera’s book is the guidebook we need to kickstart the education revolution we desperately need.

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I was provided a copy of Micro-Schools: Creating Personalized Learning on a Budget for review. Then I loaned it out before reading it and writing a review, so I bought a Kindle copy. And was sent another paper copy. So while I’m the proud owner of multiple copies of this book, none of that influenced my opinion for this review.

May 01 2017

Overthinking causes grey hair

“Turn your brain off.”
“Quit thinking so much!”
“I can hear you thinking, shush!”
“Your brain is trying to derail you, ignore it.”
“For the love of all things holy and green, shove a sweaty sock into your brain’s talk-hole to shut it up!”

I’ve said these phrases and variations on them to every one of my students…this week alone. Every year, for roughly twenty years. I swear, if I had a nickel for every time I’ve said something along these lines to one of my flute students, I could afford to cover the grey hairs more often than once a year.

Overthinking.

It’s ironic, really, that I constantly harp on my flute students about thinking too much, for allowing the inner mental chatter to distract them. I am Queen and Empress For Life of The Land of Overthinking. It’s both a curse and a gift. On one hand, I can dissect an issue or idea, chew it up, swish it around, and spit out several outcomes or possibilities; my husband of 20 years is still impressed and spooked by this. On the other hand, I’m also fantastically awesome at spinning (getting wrapped up in thinking to the point of emotional incapacity); said aforementioned husband is less enamored of finding his wife hyperventilating while staring at her to-do list in horror. Our bodies interpret that kind of mental logjam as a threat, so we tend to react with fight/flight/freeze. I’m a freezer…I figure it matches my chronically cold, AAS physiology. My brain locks up and I struggle with moving forward. Strangely enough, I seldom struggle with this in my flute playing; I must have learned how to work through it while getting my degrees. The rest of my life? Not so much. I struggle with making the mental transfer. BUT! I do recognize when students are overthinking during lessons. I can practically hear their mental chatter shouting at them. It’s a strong feeling of tension and overwhelm and a measure of fear. I suspect I freak them out when I can point to a specific spot in their music and say, “this is where you lost the flow and started listening to your brain”….and I’m always right.

Most of my students are tightly wound. Whether that’s because that kind of intensity is drawn to music or because an inordinate number of gifted individuals pick up an instrument, it doesn’t really matter. I know this mental chatter, know the feeling of helplessness and self-directed anger when your brain shouts at you, standing between you and flow. It doesn’t matter what it says, positive or negative, the brain hates being ignored and so it shouts for your full attention. Irritating asshole, the brain is.

And so I advise my students to wrestle that irritating voice to the ground and shove a smelly sock into its mouth to shut it up. YES, I KNOW IT’S HARD, I STRUGGLE WITH IT TOO!

It’s hard work to train yourself away from overthinking and into flow. Mindfulness is the best way, at least for me. Sheer awareness that I’m spinning and listening to that harpy inner voice is the first step. That at least puts me back in control of my thoughts. Then, just like playing flute, breathing. Everything, and I do mean everything, improves with awareness of the breath.

From there, everyone’s path out of the overthinking labyrinth is different. I like the suggestions from a recent Savvy Psychologist podcast on feeling overwhelmed, and I’m working to implement them (back) into my life. This summer, part of my be a better flute teacher study will include learning how to help my students get into that blissful performance flow more easily and often. And then, you know, teacher heal thyself and all that.

Just wish I had all those nickels…my hair could really use fewer grey sparkles.

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This post is part of the Hoagie’s Gifted Education Page May blog hop on overthinking. Go read some of the other writers and share your overthinking with them too!

Apr 10 2017

Twelve years of twice-exceptional

It’s been a solid dozen years of twice-exceptional life here in the House of Chaos. Our son was 4 when we first had him evaluated for giftedness and we heard “likely twice-exceptional.” In that time we’ve done all the interventions, made all the changes, and upended our lives so as to scaffold our son into adulthood. I never thought I would homeschool, yet here I am, deep into the thickest scaffolding you can imagine, trying to get him to where HE needs to go. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been our reality for twelve years now. Wildly different is perfectly normal and we think nothing of it anymore.

And then I’m faced with what a neurotypical teenager is like. You’d think I’d be faced with that nearly daily, as I teach flute to a good number of them. But it’s different. I can’t really explain how, but it is. Something to do with how my students interact with me. I’m still doing a lot of scaffolding and teaching to how my students best learn, just as I am with my own son. I’ve been meaning to write a series on how homeschooling has made me a better flute teacher and how flute teaching has made me a better homeschooler. Someday, when I have time, which may be half past never.

I’m mentoring a young woman at church, for her Affirmation year. In Unitarian Universalism, young teens go through Affirmation, similar to Confirmation or Bas Mitzvahs. It’s a year long process and can be a challenge. Andy went through it last year and it just about did me in. The Affirmants do a service project as part of their journey, and then present a Statement of Belief to the full congregation at the end of the year. Getting our 2e son to work on, finish, and then present his project was probably a “half-case of wine” job. Getting our 2e son to work on and then give a speech in front of a room packed full of people was a “storage room at a bourbon distillery” job. We weren’t sure he’d give that speech until he finished and sat back down; I kept having flashbacks to the meltdown he had in 3rd grade, when he lost his shit in the school hallway because he was supposed to go out and sing with his class at the Open House and stage fright descended upon him with a resounding thud. So getting him through the Affirmation process last year was brutal, and we were so relieved to have it behind us. Next year is his brother and dear lord I hope we’re all  ready for that.

But back to my mentee. She is a delight. A flutist herself, I was paired with her for that reason. But she is a neurotypical 8th grade girl, and the reality of my alternative normal keeps goosing me. We talked very briefly last fall about her project, and she ran with it. I checked in on her maybe twice, then freaked out when I didn’t hear from her right before her project presentation. Her presentation? Perfect. Little input from me and absolutely no prodding. It was just done. In fact, she’s still working on her project; this week I was cc’d on an email she sent out into the community. I vaguely recall her saying she was going to do that, and…she did. No reminders. We met last week to discuss her belief statement. She already had a good portion of it written, we just discussed some finer points and that was that. No pushing from me, no scaffolding, nothing. I was barely needed, other than to remind her to slow down when she talks. Just got an email from her with the completed speech. Gobsmacked is putting it mildly.

In the meantime I’m scraping up the oobleck goo that is my 2e high schooler, trying to scaffold him through his struggles while begging encouraging him to design and build his own scaffolds for the future.

And the dichotomy stings.

Since we started homeschooling, we’ve had the luxury of essentially hiding from the “normal” world. We likely have two 2e sons, just based on the fact that I have to do a lot of similar scaffolding for both boys. So I don’t really know what the normal, non-2e world is like until it is literally standing in front of me, doing what it is supposed to do, done well and on time. A teen with a basic grip on time management or planning or the concept of cause and effect? An alien life-form to me. I try not to dwell on it, try not to be jealous, try not to rail at the world. But my god, I am so envious of the parents who don’t need to constantly herd their kids through life and homework and responsibilities. Do they even know how good they have it? I know they don’t grok what life is like on this side, that’s for damned sure.

I’ve often said that parenting 2e kids to adulthood is running a marathon at a sprinter’s pace. At this point of the race, the finish line is still over that last rise, there are no water stops within sight, and I’m flagging. We have two years to get one kid ready to launch, and his younger brother? Another half decade. So we still have 2-5 years, bare minimum, of this fast-paced marathon, and I suspect it won’t slow down much after that.

Life has gotten so much better over the last 12 years, it really has; any decade old post on this site proves that. The struggles have brought us closer, but my god it is still hard. It is demanding and thankless and exhausting, but it’s the only parenting life I know. But you know what? This wildly different is perfectly normal life is all mine, and after twelve years I’m finally embracing the weird it has brought to my life.

Just…boys? Please don’t take that as a challenge to up the chaos level, m’kay? Kthxbai.

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April’s GHF Blog Hop topic is Revisiting 2e. Many other bloggers are sharing their thoughts on this today; please go check them out as well!

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