Sunday, December 13, 2015

Lessons in 2015 Towards Moving Forward

This is the time of the year, where we set goals and reflect on our progress. Learning that your past experiences, no matter what they were, molds your spirit to a better you. As long as we choose to learn from these experiences, forgive, admit mistakes, live in truth, and recognize that we have the abilities now to move forward to a higher purpose. That higher purpose, your purpose or dream in life, is unique to you. Often we find that purpose as a result to trials, obstacles, failures, and mistakes. As many say, life can all of the sudden hit you in the face. As a change agent, I found myself surround by adversity. However, I am so grateful to these situations. Without these experiences, I would of never learned from failures. I would not be where I am now. Troubles awakens you to a spiritual awareness. This experience is a gift.

Learning to Let Go: For years when I didn't get the outcome I expected, I reacted as a victim. I would allow others to abuse me, and as a result choose to become a victim. It has always been hard for me to let go. Letting go of relationships, causes, work, the past was difficult for me. Why?  I lived competitively, refused to fail, wanted to be right, shed light on others' dishonesty, and sometimes felt it was my job to "save" or "enlighten" others. I was spiritually broken, and indirectly tried to control outcomes. Death brings life. Embrace a change, as when something is over, a newness emerges. How did I overcome the victim mentality?

  • Identify triggers and learn how to respond appropriately. 
  • Affirm yourself privately and take inventory. 
  • Set boundaries: You choose how people are allowed to treat you.
  • Surround Yourself With Support: Locate a teacher, meetup group
  • Living in Daily Faith and Prayer: Know that in all situations, you have a calling and purpose. Truth always finds a way, and does not require a reaction from you.
  • Forgive: Hard to do, but once you learn how it does free you. It is not about the other person. It is about you. Consider where they are coming from. Why are they reacting this way? It often is from a place of fear. Fear of loosing wealth, money, property, a job, etc. As a result, people in fear will attempt to control outcomes and do attack your very character. Know God, your creator, will take care of you, as long as you are living in truth. No reaction is needed from you because somehow it will all work out. As a result, you will learn to let things go and situations will diffuse on their own. Don't get even. Stay focused on your goal or purpose. It will work out. 

Learning to Live With Purpose: All dreams are gifts from our creator and we already have the capacity to achieve these dreams. Rejections are common to people whom are pushing their purpose forward. It is a wonderful gift to be underestimated. Creating your own network and platform requires you to let it go. Joy is your guidance system. Recognizing when it is time to move on or forward is a skill.  The next phase will bring you to a large or global door as the purpose is bigger than you. You learn to facilitate others towards success, and as a result you help others who are working towards the same purpose. So, you bring others in on global projects. Others whom are centered around the same life's purpose or work.  It becomes not about you, but for the purpose you are working towards.

Learning Faith: What is important in life? Develop a spiritual pathway of your own. Give order and respect to your spiritual life. For years, I did not feed my spirit. Celebrate your life. Identify areas of self improvement so that you are rested, able to respond to others, and are present with those whom are in your life. For me, I find this in nature, small group settings, music, and art. Identify strategies to help you do this.

Setting Goals: I am hoping this year that I continue seeking spiritual healing and hope to accomplish the following goals.

  • Improving Self Discipline: This will be a top priority for me in 2016 and is needed for my personal health and well-being. Actions needed to reach this goal will require a life change towards nutrition, financial spending, and spiritual presence or participation with a small support group. 
  • Completing the PhD: I am so grateful to my superiors and leaders for allowing me to fulfill my final project or purpose concerning STEAM and makerspace environments this spring.  
  • New Hobbies: I would like to take time to learn a few new hobbies, unrelated to my career. After a PhD, I think it is important that I take time to enjoy myself. 
  • Living in Gratitude: I would like to volunteer or give back in someway next year. Perhaps, a local mission outreach group assisting single mothers or a mission trip with my family. 
Show the world, that your dream can be their reality. Grateful for this chance. Don't judge by what you see. Judge by a belief. Keep going. Keep moving forward. It is hard to start over again, but the process, faith, and character leads to greatness. Grateful for my faith now. I have a strength and resolve, and we are making it happen.  

Monday, November 23, 2015

5 Life Lessons Backpacking Taught Me

Growing up my family taught me a large appreciation for the Great Outdoors. Hiking with my father and grandmother early in life formed a spirit of adventure and love for nature.  I feel like we have passed on to my two sons. Growing up in rural Texas, I spent a lot of time hiking around the Colorado River, exploring caves, playing hide and seek with friends in the hill country. In fact, graduation night I will never forget our Glen Rose M&W Ranch adventure. As a college student, I backpacked, canoed, and explored the Great American West.  As young adult hiked the Grand Canyon in 1999, parts of the AT in 1999, 5 trips in a tent across Europe from 1998-2009, Ontario in 2010 and 2012, and have camped in over 33 states. During the last 5 years, like so many became preoccupied with other things and haven't backpacked. I know I haven't backpacked alone in over 20 years. This last weekend I was fortunate to connect with the North Texas Outdoors Meetup Group and took a leap of faith. Backpacking continues to teach me so much about life.

New Years Eve 1999: I slept at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, 22 degrees, and hiked 22 miles.

Me November 22, 2015. Nothing like the Grand Canyon, but I did it! 
  1. We need less than we think. In the past, my husband Uel would carry the tent and I carried the water, food, and heavy items. This time, I got to carry only what I needed alone. I did it and took more than I needed. Meeting very experienced backpackers, I learned how to reconsider my needs. Backpacking teaches us to really consider needs versus wants. Needs are things that keep you alive and physically or mentally healthy. Everything else is a want. Most things in modern society are wants. A big house? A want. A shiny new phone? A want. A nice vacation? Probably a want. The prestigious job? A want. You can tie your happiness and sense of self worth to your wants, but you don’t have to, and don’t worry, letting go of your wants won’t kill you either (that’s the definition of a want). That’s not to say that you shouldn’t get things you want. But I find that I appreciate getting what I want more, because rather than feeling like I’m getting something I’m entitled to, I can feel like I received an unexpected gift.
  2. Learning through failures: Backpacking requires you to test your limits. Did you plan accordingly? Did you bring everything you needed? What could you have done differently? The experienced group I met utilizes spreadsheets to accurately plan and track their progress. All in the group reflect after each trip. I was surprised how many programmers, engineers, health care professionals, and educators were in my group. All are professionals, many females, seeking a natural challenge. However, also don't forget to celebrate your victories. 
  3. Unplugging helps you reconnect with yourself. Unplugging in nature really helps us reconnect with ourselves, our goals, and provides us time to consider were we are in life. Night skies are the best and remind us of the vast universe.  
  4. Hiking heals: Hiking offers serious health benefits, from lowering blood pressure, assists with depression, to improving creativity and cognitive functions. Research shows that spending time outdoors increases attention spans and creative problem-solving skills by as much as 50 percent. I was fortunate to meet 3 other women who just this year finalized a divorce and experienced major life changes. Together the four of us worked through experiences, challenges. and formed a friendship. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Artistic Engineering of You

This morning I was reminded by an author, Abdu Murray, about the power of one during a talk about his book Grand Central Station at a church in Keller, Texas. He is a law student, author, converted Muslim to Christianity, and does offer some compelling questions and ideas considering historical perspectives, philosophies, and scientific understanding of world religions and ideas. 

  1. We are valuable. We are intelligent human beings with an intelligent, individualized, or unique cognitive design. Known as the "design interface", much research and advances in science and technology have been made through projects like the The Human Genome Project. What does it mean to be human? Why do we have value? It is important to remember that a great architect and artist designed and engineered our universe for life. It is beautiful to be reminded that our bodies are knitted or weaved together in a marvelous and unique way. Each of us have a gift and cognitive ability to leave a positive impact in our world. 
  2. We were made with purpose. We were created  for relationships. This makes sense to me. As a graduate with a master of computer information systems degree, I understand systems, system design, relations and relationships. Our purpose is centered around the system of relationships we build. We seek to build relationships, we morn lost relationships, and our need for relationships is real. We must consider how our purpose can be fulfilled through the relationships we support, seek, and maintain. As we validate others through love, truth, and compassion, we will continue to be a light of love and compassion that will attract others to help us fulfill purpose.
  3. Suffering happens for a greater good. Often we are not aware of the greater good.In order to understand and work through love, we must live in a state of forgiveness, understanding, prayer, reflection, and seek community. 


Sunday, October 11, 2015

To Limitless Possibilities

To the scared 17 year old girl who feels rejected and alone. Know that you are a strong, beautiful, and intelligent young lady who is wiser than most of the same age. You crave to be accepted by your family, loved unconditionally, and believe you can make an impact in the world. You are a hard worker, curious about the world, and are understanding that there are different perspectives. I wish you would know that it is ok to be different and to question. Questioning provides creative thought. Know that you are a bright light even now and that you are valuable. You are loved and forgiven. You already know you are here for a higher purpose and that life has meaning. You are not strange for knowing you have a purpose.

To the 21 year old bride, you are beautiful and so full of hope and purity. You want to see the best in others and wear rose colored glasses. You are accomplishing things that no one else in your family has. As a result, you continue to try to prove your "worth", but know you are already loved and worthy. You wish to see the world and view things from a variety of perspectives. You attempt to be the change in the world and dedicate your life to education and the world's youth.

To the 28 year old new mother, you are beautiful and strong. You hold everything together for everyone else. Your strength is amazing. You have traveled with a baby all over the nation and world to provide your child with a global view. To the 30 year old, mother of two. You continue to hold everything together. You can slow down and admit that you cannot do everything alone. You seek social connection. You provide so much for your children. You seek to be loved unconditionally and sacrifice much to not only perform "motherly duties", hike with your children daily, read to your children daily, wash all the clothes, clean the house, do the dishes daily, ensure the house is together enough, you also work full time.You recognize your industry is changing and you model the ability to learn by being the first to earn a masters degree in your family.
You are tired. You model the importance of making a difference in the world. You are holding everything together alone because you so wanted your family to stay together. You are strong.

To the scared 38 year old. It is all happening so fast. You are attempting to hold it together. You have taken the children to school since they started school, make their lunches, purchase their clothing, ensure they have clean clothing, take baths, have a clean home, have a safe vehicle (mini-van), work full time, trying to earn a living and save by giving everything to their father so that a net worth can be provided to them at a later age. You are about to loose it all. You are tired, have been abused physically and mentally,  alone, and are spiritually broken. You are pretending to be perfect and not living in truth. You still crave unconditional love. You are controlled by others and are a door mat to many bullies who deceive and hide their behaviors and lies because you allow it. You are a bright light and inspiration to many. You are a community leader. 

To the 40 year old on October 11, 2015. You have learned to slow down. You value your time with your children. You have learned to let go of others who do not allow you to grow and may hurt your spirit. You do this on your terms. You have learned to draw boundaries. You know your strength and know for the first time that you are loved unconditionally by your creator. You know that you are here for a higher purpose and that you will succeed and don't really need to control. The choices you make today are shaping your future. It will happen naturally because it was meant to happen. You will not be a door mat. You will not be controlled or manipulated. You are learning to respond to others who are negative with grace.  You have identified your triggers and purpose in life. You admit you are human and not perfect. You are beginning to reach out to others who have similar life goals and accomplishments to help you grow as a spiritual individual. You are beginning to love your independent self. Life takes us through many changes and failures often bring us to reevaluate our behavior. Positive change can occur as a result of difficult times. Alturism shifts the focus of ourselves and change becomes possible when we begin to realize the importance of community.Social isolation is something I dealt with during the last 2-3 years. Last year it was suggested to me that I reach out to people, outside of my career, to build a support network. To be honest, I had not ever done that or had the need to do that until my divorce. I took the challenge and joined a few Meet Up groups and a singles class at a Methodist church. As a result, I have developed a social circle of people, who like me, are completely human. It is great to know that I don't have to choose to be alone. My higher power has used many challenges in my life to push me to consider the value of a spiritual community. In doing so, I am becoming centered in my spiritual self. Know you are beautiful, strong, worthy, and able to face obstacles with grace. You have realized that you need others and are not alone. You are grounded in TRUTH. Your failures have brought you an amazing future and possibilities.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Finding Your Source

You are a compassionate, creative, and loving spirit. This year I am working on centering my life's purpose of focus, or spiritual growth. I recognize that for a few decades, like many, became lost in the business or achievement of life. I am a product of a culture of champions, or the culture that feeds competitive champions, achievers, that fostered the sense of Winning. How do you become a more powerful creator with an intention of love?

Knowing and Identifying Intention: I have always suffered from the disease to please. Only do what you really want to do so that you can give yourself fully.  I am what I have versus I am what I do. Significant others in my life were consumed with I am what I have. I am guilty of I am what I do, competitive. I am what people think of me is another issue I have battled. As I have worked on this during the last month, I have identified my life's purpose and have found focusing on this these past few weeks has assisted me to respond to others with an intention of purposeful positive action.
    • Intention is one with cause and effect. 
    • Intention will ultimately determine the outcome of the effect. 
    • Identify how you wish to serve (Purpose).
    • Post your life's purpose to assist with focus. 
    • Go inside, take time before you react. Develop emotional awareness. This is new to me.
    • Choose consciously, try to choose to act in the  most loving way in the moment. Choose an intention of love instead of fear.  
Finding Your Joy:  Certain environments have always renewed my spirit to assist me in finding my joy to include my grandmother's house, certain areas in the Texas hill country, a walk in a forest, a beach. Nature has always healed my soul. 
    • Allow yourself to feel. 
    • Finding your joy is a process. 
    • Practice gratitude. 
Every action has an opposite reaction.
    • Golden Rule or Karma is real. Consider that everything you try to do to me, is already done to you. 
    • Give to the world what you want and you will receive it back. It may not be delivered by the same person involved. 
    • You don't have to worry about someone who does harm to you because the karma debt will take care of itself. If you do judge and act with intention, you will be delivered consequences of your own choices. 
I am reading the following books and viewing resources during the month of August and September to assist me with in improving these principles. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Back To School Tips For Divorced Parents

Back to school is hard for kids who come from broken homes. Meet the teacher nights prior to school starting can be stressful as often custody summer arrangements sometimes interfere. This year I met my son's new teacher alone for the first time. My sons were still visiting their dad for the summer. They spend extra time with him in the summer to compensate for missed time during the school year week. Most children from divorced homes do spend long periods of time during the summer with their non-custodial parent. Feelings of guilt crept up as I went to meet the teacher, as it is obvious that my family is now somewhat dysfunctional. Later in the week, one of my dear friends called me who is also is a similar situation but located in another state. We used to teach together and we became close friends due to our numerous collaborative projects. When she called me, she began describing her meet the teacher experience, which was very similar to mine. As we began commiserating on how unfortunate it was for both of our kids, I realized that this was possibly the "norm". With more than half of US children coming from broken homes, we realized that many times public school structures often choose  a one day or time fits all approach to introduce the teacher. As a 17 year public school educator and advocate, this issue never really occurred to me until now. Perhaps this contributes to a lack of parent involvement.

This month I have spent much time reading 4 books on the subject of coparenting and divorce effects on children. It is comforting that there are many of us coparenting households in the US.  This time of the year is rough on single households. How am I preparing?

  1. Limit Confusion: Kids are often confused and things get lost in the shuffle. Set up a checklist or purchase duplicates to ease the stress. Organization is key.
  2. Plan Financial Resources: Single families really have to plan to meet the extra costs that Back to School bring. I am very fortunate and grateful to have resources, but I think of all of the families with single parents working 2-3 jobs to make ends meet. To purchase school supplies for my two children, excluding lunch boxes and backpacks, was a little over $80.00 this summer. Add the cost of backpacks, lunch boxes, gym clothes, school clothes, PTO costs, instruments, lessons, and activities it becomes quickly obvious that this is an issue facing many.
  3. Connect: Set aside a lot of time to be emotionally available for your kids. Many may need counseling to transition. Listen and give them time to process. Limit activities maybe during this time to make time to connect.
  4. Be Proactive: Understand that it is important to be proactive in noticing how your child is dealing with issues. Seek help ahead of time in case professional help is needed and always speak about the other parent in a loving way. Allow the child to contact the other parent and be flexible. It is important to put your child in the center of everything during this time to ease tension and stress. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Learning to Fly

A year ago today I entered a new door in this adventure called life.Many friends back in the day might remember a novel that we would share at parties, entitled I Married Adventure, The novel is an excellent memoir of Osa Leighty who married Martin Johnson, a pioneering photographer who toured with the great Jack London. 

As a young, inquisitive, and very independent small town girl, I was very attracted to global and worldly approaches. So, in the mid and late 1990's, I got out of Texas, traveling to Mexico, Holland, Belgium, France, Mexico, and around 33 states. I am grateful that I was introduced to new perspectives, ideologies, fantastic museums, and the music...all from a backpack. My two sons later got to tag along and continue to do so with their two very unique parents, who enjoyed the comforts of rural Texas for a home but also took on large adventures. We entered a new adventure last year, for me it is a solo one. 

This year has been rough. Single parenting is hard and can be so difficult on kids. What have I learned this year?

  1. Take it one day at a time.
  2. Pray About Specific Events or People Daily.
  3. Inward reflection for improvement is hard but necessary for personal growth.
  4. Your kids love you and it will be ok.
  5. Your stronger than you know.
  6. The right people and events come into your life at the right time. 
  7. Struggles and conflict bring great opportunities.
  8. Boundaries are healthy and necessary. 
  9. Life is short and enjoy the people in it today. 
And..... learning to marry your own adventure is a gift.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Don’t Stop Believing…Leading Change Through ACTION

Today I had the privilege of spending the entire day with Eric Sheninger. He encouraged us to consider who will tell our story if we don’t. What will they say?
That was an important and scary question for me to consider right now. I am gun shy as my major professor stated. My story is an amazing story and I have been blessed to meet and work with some amazing educators. This is my perspective from past experiences. I have seen kids make a very large impact in the world . I have been so blessed to identify my passions early on and to have had a creator put special opportunities in my path along with some amazing kids, teachers, and leaders.
Assisting the community of Dublin, Texas with  Dr. Shaun Barnett and his wife Keri Barnett with a 1:1 K12 technology initiative in 2010, I became a leader. I am grateful to both of them for their leadership.  I believe this was the 2nd 1:1 K12 initiative in the state of Texas. Serving as the district instructional technologist and grant coordinator and later under a different leader a technology coordinator, I became a connected educator. I found myself working and leading the state in, dare I say the word, Project Share (the state’s first attempt for a connected Learning Management system) with Ms. Barnett. At that time, I had no one really in the area or Texas to connect with or to assist me. We brought in Alan November and Apple to assist in training.  What did I do? I joined a PhD program to connect with the top scholars of the world and began using social media to include Project Share, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. I  located people to assist me in understanding how to connect others to content. I became a passionate curator, creator, researcher, publisher, and scholar and feel as if I was blessed to oversee some amazing transformations. No one really understood what I was doing, but now I believe we planted a seed for not just a rural community, but for an entire global movement.
Project Share: It didn’t work out, but the concept was right on. The ability for all students in Texas to have a digital portfolio via an LMS in which stakeholders could communicate and introduce blended learning was futuristic. I submitted a proposal and was surprised when we were selected to serve on a panel at the first SXSWedu conference. Yes, the LMS platform was flawed, Epsilen, but the IDEA of sharing was truly noble and ahead of it’s time. However, I found change slower than expected and a lack of understanding on the concept of connected learning. In fact, at the end of the experience after hours of free assistance from me to the Epsilen team, my participation in focus groups, and a public push for improved LMS features and training ,  I  found that I had lost my ability to even post or share with a wider network within Project Share. What did I do? I turned to other tools like Canvas and continued my passion to assist in helping others see the power of open source and communication.
Student Voice: I remember introducing the concept of video creation with Samuel Parsi from Apple in a Challenge Based Learning PD. From that students began creating video and we were invited to lead change via a Ignite session in Austin in 2012 in the Digital Square. I remember taking students to TCEA 2012 in Austin in which my friends Randy Rogers, Dwight Goodwin, Mark Hooker, and Scott Floyd invited my students to participate in an Ignite session on their cause to TAKE 5: 5 Ways to Change Your Community and their efforts to QR code their 5 small museums. We used Google Maps to track our cause, which became eventually a Save Dublin campaign, #saveddp. Their efforts to save their rural town through digital curation left a huge impact. Mark invited our students to the first TED student event and we saw our first 3D printer. That led to a NASA STEAM camp program, which at that time and to my knowledge was the first STEAM camp program in Texas. 
Makered and STEAM: No one in 2012 understood the maker movement. I am grateful to Whitney and Tom Kilgore who invited me to be to host some of the first #txeduchat events, all focused on STEAM and makered ideas. Those ideas assisted us last year in leading the entire world with the first studentNASA launch parties . We also hosted a Google Hangout to reflect on STEAM programs.
From this experience, I was able to take ideas to the Kennedy Space Center. This month I found myself leading makercamp at the Dallas Perot Museum and again saw kids amazed to create 3D objects for 3D printing for the first time in the Perot Learning Lab. During their makerspace, kids were amazed and so excited to see everyone enjoying their reflections.
I was invited to Washington DC last October to lead a social media event at a NASA clean room facility. What did I do? I didn’t shut out the students and take it in just for myself. I brought the kids in, thankfully with Mr. Chris Underwood and Bea Price. They agreed to Skype with me all day and I believe that was the first time at a NASA press conference that Skype was used  during public questioning. We had 5th graders asking tough questions to some of the top heliophysics experts of the world.
Even though I have had been afforded all of these opportunities, I found myself during this entire time wondering if I could continue the charge. It is hard to be a bright light within an institution and at times hard to overcome obstacles, barriers, fear, efforts to control innovative change. It is hard to remain positive. Change is difficult . Managing my time and focus had become difficult along with maintaining a belief that I could be positive and actually continue in the public education sector.
This spring I had many opportunities to move to the private sector. I have had some leaders tell me “Your too bright to be in public education.” “Jennifer, you need to be at a university.” “There is no future in public education, everything is moving to charter and online options because the system is broken.”
I say to these naysayers, I BELIEVE in everyone’s right to an equal opportunity and the spirit of public education. I BELIEVE in YOU. I BELIEVE in our CHILDREN. I AM GRATEFUL  and WE WILL SUCCEED.
Focus on Positive

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Celebrating Life via #40AOK

Around thirty minutes ago I hit a milestone, the BIG 40
How do I feel? I feel stronger, tougher, wiser, and so grateful to the people who have come across my path at some point during the last 40 years. I have had to learn to LET go during the last year. This is the first year I will celebrate without my lifelong birthday partner, my beautiful grandmother, who celebrated two days after mine on July 4th. We always had a special birthday together and her faith in her higher power and spirit motivated so many. She always thought of others and I realize she modeled LOVE for me. When you are limited with the time available to your kids, you learn to value that time. All we really have is this moment, and to celebrate my birthday I am going to attempt to spend this month deliberately engaging in 40 acts of kindness and hope that you join me. I came across this video tonight as I pondered where I am in life at the age of 40. 

Hmmm..... I am a child from the 90's, Class of 1993 Stephenville High School. I come from a community of champions and a strong LOVING and Christian family. I have accomplished a great deal in life, experienced many failures, lots of disappointments, and have so many to thank for helping me to get to this place. Giving to an organization is good, but you are removed from the actual act of kindness. Hopefully, I can make a difference this month and model making a difference to Zeke and Nolan. Your invited to join in or just keep me in check. :)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Building Boundaries: Learning To Let Go

Do any of you have problems with setting boundaries? My brother introduced me to the book Boundaries last year as I was facing three large life changes in the course of a month. Through counseling, I identified last year that I lacked the ability to set boundaries and as a result was surrounded by individuals who took my contributions, intelligence, and love for granted.

I remember during the Spring of 2014 being introduced to the concepts of boundaries by my counselor and brother and realized that I failed to set boundaries. I had a fear of being alone and was surrounded by toxic circumstances. I don't claim to be an expert in this field. I often fail at training people who "love me" to treat me appropriately.  Sometimes I still fail at this and settle sometimes. I realize that I have a hard time setting boundaries out of fear of abandonment. I have not lived in truth in decades. I am writing this to help me process everything and hope that my experiences help someone else.

Many of you know that during the past year I have been blessed through a year of transition and many life lessons. After a 17 year relationship, I found myself in the middle of an ugly divorce and the hurts surrounding such a traumatic circumstance. As a result, I had to relocate to an urban environment for the first time to start a new life. I started a new job and managed to complete all three events within a week period. I became a recluse in the fall. Part of this I now know was due to the shock and grief the Summer of 2014 presented.

I became engrossed in the new demands of single parenthood, taking care of my kids' emotional needs. On top of all of this I managed to complete my PhD coursework, and passions related to my creative loves, my escape. 

Unfortunately, these same issues were presented to me again in a new format early this spring. I have had to let a lot of people go this last year, realizing that once again I had allowed abuse. I recognized it this spring.  It is so easy for me to get in the habit of letting people walk all over me and tolerate wrong doings. I was raised in a Christian home, with the model "turn the other cheek", which is still important, but it is unhealthy to tolerate behavior that hurts you. It was presented to me in counseling this spring that I have three large issues to consider. 
  • I cannot do everything ALONE. It is tempting to withdraw when you remove yourself from an environment of toxic relationships. It is important to meet new people and I had failed to do this. I have only surrounded myself with coworkers. I was given the task to join meetup groups and single organizations to work on that. This has helped me tremendously as I am now building a support group. 
  • It is OK to tell people NO. When you set a boundary people will respond negatively. In fact, they may attempt to use guilt, attack you, or manipulate to get their way. This is ok. It will be uncomfortable but in the end you will learn how to demonstrate self-respect. 
  • If you feel confused about an issue, you are usually being manipulated. If you don't confront the issue, it will get worse. 
  • Setting boundaries brings awareness surrounding an ISSUE. It will cause conflict. Setting a boundary provides a platform for you to present the responsibility for a wrong. 
  • Setting boundaries is a risk. You may loose someone or something you care about. That is OK because you will feel stronger knowing that you stood up for yourself. You can't heal without pain. Pain is a precursor to resolution from emotional abuse after years of denial. 
  • Identify a safe person who can give you another set of eyes to keep you in check. You may have reach out of your circle to help you. This person must be able to look at issues and relationships honestly to help you confirm that this is a boundary issue. 
  • Use specific events and examples when setting a boundary. Be prepared that others may manipulate the situation to shift blame, play the victim, lie, or deny. 
  • Trust in God's universal love. Your spirit matters and believe that you create your own destiny.
I realize that I am on a journey of self-discovery and healing this summer. Grateful to my friends and family who are helping me grow spiritually this year. Thankful to those this spring who were placed in my life to remind me of the importance of setting boundaries because I still mess up.  Learning to set these boundaries is a spiritual and learning process. I sometimes still feel uncomfortable and realize that it takes practice. However, the feeling of self worth and self respect you give yourself is so worth it. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Launching DREAMS.. Reflections on NASA MMS Launch Events

t was the fall of 2011, and I was learning how to become a connected educator. Growing up in rural Texas I have always been labeled a free spirit, dreamer, global thinker who preferred to wear rose colored glasses. I am the 17 year old who proudly stated that I was going to become an educator in my local county newspaper because I truly believed that I could assist others to change the world. I developed a strong interest in debate early in high school, which introduced me to a variety of perspectives and forced me to consider other opinions. My parents instilled a strong Christian belief system towards helping others and I have always truly attempted to give all of myself towards special causes. I found myself in 2011 connecting with other passionate educators around the world eager to use technology as a communication vehicle to promote true change.
I had seen such a transformation occurring in my small community of Dublin, Texas and skill sets acquired during a 1:1 iOS initiative taught me how to connect with others. It was during these late night Twitter chats where I started assisting students to attempt to place their small community on the map via a Save Dr. Pepper Twitter Campaign and TAKE 5 Community Challenge. I was introduced to a curriculum challenge via my PLN that would later profoundly alter my life and many others. The social exchanges that led to a powerful IDEA, a NASA MMS Student Led Challenge, has now been adopted and utilized by students across the globe due to my response to a social media challenge issued by a joint collaboration effort through ISTE (International Society of Technology Education) and NASA. A couple months later I was in route to Austin, Texas to deliver multiple professional development sessions, assist students in leading an Ignite Speech to Save Dublin Dr. Pepper, and meet up with edtech leaders. On my way I remember connecting to my first ZOOM meeting with NASA in a McDonald’s located in Lampasas, Texas. Remembering that all McDonald’s had free wifi, I connected with a select international group and was presented with a challenge. Finding out that two of the members in the group of 25 were actually attending TCEA in Austin, Texas, I decided to organize a face to face meeting. That week I connected with Sandra Wozniak and Tom Chambers in person. I was placed on a team with these two individuals and challenged to deliver a curriculum package within a few weeks that any school in any nation could apply to produce real interest in the problems surrounding the mission, STEM career skill sets, and renewable energies.
Later that spring,we were able to work with Mr. Chamber’s students and fund his students to visit our town to lead a 1 on 1 student mentored workshop. I took this opportunity to coordinate an international student led NASA summit using Project Share and Adobe Connect, which El Paso ISD technology director’s Tim Holt so generously helped to facilitate. I was able to connect schools around Texas, Troy Cline in Washington DC, a US ambassador in Tajakastan, schools in New Jersey, and others around the nation and began considering topics surrounding magnetism, solar storms, and the use of solar energy as a renewable source. Kids in rural Texas also met Mr. Laurence Gartel, the Father of Digital Art, Dr. Patericai Reiff, Physics expert and professor at RICE University, and other experts during this experience in April. The event helped set the stage for a robotics workshop and NASA MMS workshop in which 18 teachers participated. These teacher later helped to host the first ever NASA MMS STEAM camp in Dublin, Texas. I am grateful to community leaders in this small town, Dr. Rodney Schneider, Vicky Stone, and the principal Terry Johnson, who made that event possible.
2012 iste
Sandra and I began to lay out what would later become 3 years of summer STEAM camp activities that employed many science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematic instructional lessons. Each lesson infused learning technology and introduced teachers to new pedagogical approaches andscientific concepts foreign to many teachers and students. Amazingly, we acquired grant funding and with the approval of local leadership and community I began to test these ideas during my PhD course work.  Sandra and I placed our first set of ideas in a livebinder, which was awarded the Top 2012 livebinder of the year award at ISTE 2012. We began to present and host after school programs across the nation for the next three years. Online MOOCs, academic research, and grant funded after school programs popped up across the nation due to our ability to connect to others and give away our time, lessons, and passion to students, teachers, and community. We believed in the power of an idea and the end results have left me speechless.
MMS NASA ISTE Cyber Cafe Poster Session
MMS NASA ISTE Cyber Cafe Poster Session
During the summer of 2014, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to move to Carroll ISD, a larger school district. After I was hired, one of the middle school principals informed me in late September that the district was building an observatory. I could barely contain my enthusiasm and began working with school leadership’s extracurricular programs to assist in incorporating instructional technologies  to incorporate student led launch parties. My contacts in DC supported the idea and I began working on a MOOC via Canvas Open Network to introduce teachers around the planet to materials we had used during the last 3 years and to assist in spreading launch parties around the nation.
I was shocked to have the invitation to travel to Washington DC in October of 2014 to the actual clean room to view the actual spacecraft. All of the passion, struggles, and failures that I encountered during my 3 year academic adventure was leading me to new global doors and I began to realize this during the DC trip. Seeing the actual clean room, meeting engineers and physicists working on the project, and understanding that this really is a “real event” brought me to tears. How did I end up here? It is obvious that a higher purpose is at work here. I was able to bring Carroll ISD students with me to the tour via Skype and probably hosted over 10 classrooms during the NASA social event. I later found out that connecting students to a NASA social via Skype was a new concept and once again I found myself breaking new ground. I am so grateful to the teachers who connected their students that day. You made a huge impact.
Returning from Washington DC I was able to coordinate a face to face student launch party in a  very short amount of time. Once again, I found myself heading to Austin’s TCEA event and I was so fortunate to have the ability to hand out materials and share our MOOC at TCEA 2015, thanks to Randy Rogers and TCEA’s leadership team. Your conference produces GREAT IDEAS due to the networking abilities fostered during the conference.
The next week, I found myself greeting the Father of Digital Art face to face, who was in route from the Grammy Awards. How did I land Mr. Laurence Gartel in Southlake, Texas from the Grammy Awards? Later Susan Pope, NASA MMS engineer, and Troy Cline NASA MMS Educational Outreach lead met with students and we hosted an awesome student led NASA Launch Party. Students led the entire event.They created the program, met guests at the door, kicked off the welcome speech, provided entertainment, and served the makerspace role of the NASA MMS STEAM challenge. I am so grateful to the students, parents, teachers, leadership, and community because you had a large impact.
A few weeks later, I found myself setting up a planetarium with Dr. Reiff from Rice University, Mr. Gartel, and 18 students from West Virginia and Texas to replicate the idea in the Saturn V facility. We were issued NASA employee badges and were fortunate to have a front row VIP seat to watch the NASA MMS spacecraft launch via an Atlas 5 rocket. We met thousands of people during our three day adventure. It felt as if we were all living a dream and serving a larger purpose. Would the launch fail? How can this be real? What if we get the science and engineering wrong to VIPs during student presentations?
Again, the students (2 of which are my own sons) presented flawlessly and highly impressed the NASA experts. As we went out to sit with Mr. Gartel to watch the launch, I had tears again in my eyes. The countdown began and we all sat with much excitement. Here I found myself among strong dreamers, leaders, and great thinkers. Some of which have been working on this mission for over 20 years, facing funding cuts, setbacks, but though it all they persevered. And together we cried as we saw and heard our dream lift loudly that night, brighter than the sun. My sons and I hugged and cried. We were part of something truly amazing, out of this world.
launch party 4
As I went home that night, I was reminded by a very good friend that that launch was not the end, but the beginning of something great. He is correct. Failure is not an option. Thank you NASA MMS team for reminding us how the power of teamwork, spirit of connectedness, and perseverance conquers all.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Energy is Powerful

Today I am so grateful and humbled by the level of support from complete strangers. The energy guiding a series of unbelievable events surrounding me is nearly impossible to describe. How did I end up here? All of the pain and lessons learned have taught me to the true meaning of faith, perseverance, and I now recognize the power of positive energy and connectivity to others.  All humans and people have a voice and can have a profound impact. A spiritual energy and presence can be so powerful. Life is so beautiful and I can't believe that my future has so many turns. I never dreamed any of my current realities was remotely possible a year ago.

The power of an idea, thought, and connectivity via technology can PROFOUNDLY change your course in life.

It is great to know that we can all shine and it is our duty to shine in areas that are dark and stagnant. It is wonderful to know that we are supported by a higher power when doing so and that everything happens for a reason. I have learned that I don't have to know why but just have the ability to listen to my inner voice and understanding. It is important to know that all great ideas come to fruition through hard work, perseverance, and grit.


And I dream that students will lead an entire event and I know Friday evening that will become a reality. The relationships I have built through my PhD online cohort, my learning technology friends, and passionate professionals (whom I now call my friends) bring tears of joy and pride. I know that we have nearly accomplished what some thought would be impossible. I am so proud and so grateful that my kids will soon see my dreams become a reality. Reflecting on my last three years, I know I am playing my role as one of my former students would say.  Her work in my class three years, for a different cause, still inspires me. Grateful for her and that experience.

That morning I showed all my students this video on the day of his death. I challenged the students to create a reflection. Wow, now this video really impacts me more. Guess what, I still love what I do.