I Think I’m a Wood Duck…

male wood duck 3

Did you know there are ducks that live in trees? Yeah, me neither. (and if you said yes, you can keep that cockiness to yourself)

I saw this guy perched outside my kitchen window the other day and I ran for my camera because I was sure I was about to capture something extraordinary. I mean, look!

It’s a duck!

In a tree!

It turns out I’m like the only person interested in birding (and who lives in Wisconsin) who didn’t know that wood ducks are a thing. And apparently you can find them like everywhere water and woods collide. Ok, so I can expect to see this again in my lifetime, but just because I’m not very far up the birding learning curve, it doesn’t mean I can’t be excited about catching this guy posed on a branch. I was meant to see him and with his colorful-come-to-me-ladies-I-have-my-good-feathers-on-today look, I couldn’t help but to think about him.

So, after much contemplation, I have come to a conclusion.

I think I might be a wood duck. It’s a strange spirit animal, I know, but hear me out.

The old me, before I saw a duck in a tree, believed that ducks could be found floating in ponds or waddling in nearby grassy knolls. Most ducks behave that way, but not the wood duck. Wood ducks can do the normal duck things, sure, like swimming and laying eggs, but they do things just a little differently. They are non-conformists. I get it.

Like all ducks, wood ducks pair off with mates, but instead of hiding in grasses, they live in strategically placed wood boxes along the water, or in hollowed trees where they lay their eggs.

Hubby and I live in a bus in the summer…just sayin’.

Wood ducks are the only species of duck that has strong claws for grabbing branches and webbed feet for swimming. Nothing really anatomical I can use to relate, but I do find myself often oscillating between writing and coaching, unsure which role is truly me. Like the wood duck, I can navigate both worlds, I just need to focus where I am.

Maybe the way I am most like wood ducks is in the way the mother duck moves the newly hatched ducklings from the tree to the water. The mother duck goes first, getting herself to the ground, and then she calls to the ducklings who are to follow her out of the nest. She calls with encouragement and the ducklings are expected to follow with faith and a leap. They are not able to fly when this happens. The mother hopes she has chosen a good spot, with a soft-leaf landing, and she then has to trust in the evolution of their species that like all those before her, the ducklings can handle the fall.

I saw this video a few years ago, but I did not know they were wood ducks.

duck jump

I am more like that wood duck mother than is comfortable for a lot of people.

I have faith in the surroundings we’ve created, I have faith in the resilience of our children, and I have faith in the natural wonder of personal growth that best happens when no one pushes us, but we are encouraged to go for it, so we do.

I was on a walk with Nate today, a gift of his time he gave me without asking, and I lamented the fact I need to change my writing, vlogging, YouTubing, content-creation mode of operation to fit a “standard” expected by the publishing world. He reminded me that with any new venture there are things I’ll need to do, but I need to remember I am more equipped to do them than I think.

I am a wood duck. Fiercely equipped, adaptable to many situations and filled with a faith that is sometimes hard to comprehend. I cannot think of an animal better suited to accompany me on this next phase of my production career because, and I forgot to mention, they are also the only duck that produces two broods a year. Production is what wood ducks do!

Copyright Choosing to Grow 2019                                     www.meaganfrank.com                                    @meaganfrank_ctg

 

 

Rain Running:Tracking Life Moments

IMG_4816I ran in the rain yesterday. On purpose.

I hobbled home in a downpour. Because I had to.

For two glorious miles, I sucked humid air into my lungs, celebrated streams of warm rainwater on my face, wrung out my weighted t-shirt, and listened to the birds sing in the patter. I smiled the entire time. I rejoiced in how far I’ve come that a recreational run in the rain evokes complete gratitude. I relished the fact that fullness of life is possible in such simple, pleasant moments.

Two steps before turning around to head home, a shooting pain in my left calf, the leg that I’ve so carefully guarded because it still has an intact Achilles tendon, literally stopped me mid-stride. Staring back down the path from where I had come, I was in a new moment. A moment of pain, a moment of consideration about my new reality, but unbelievably still a moment of sustained gratitude. I’ll get to that later, because I did have to head back down the joyful path that had taken me there, but with painfully, slow progression.

Half a lifetime ago, none of what I experienced yesterday was possible.

When I was a senior in college, and preparing to graduate, I turned down an invitation to walk in the rain. What I believed about such activities was that it was useless. What was productive about a walk in the rain? It has taken me decades to learn what my college roommate apparently already knew: striving, achieving, and controlling is not living. Living is being present in a moment…no matter what that moment might be.

Maturity and children are responsible for chipping away at the version of myself that was too driven to live well.

I now gauge my progression through life on experiences that involve my kids too.

I told my sixteen-year-old yesterday, as I set my phone and headphones down on the desk, that I was leaving them behind because I didn’t want them to get too wet.

“I’m headed to the stop sign at the end of the path, so at least you know where I was running if I get abducted,” I told him.

He smiled, amused, and then went back to watching whichever show he had pulled up on his phone.

Part of the joy I experienced the first half of my run, before pain interrupted my thoughts, was the recollection of another rain run I had nine years ago.

Nine years ago, my children were six, four and one. We were planning another move, from Menomonie to Woodbury this time, and my husband was already in Colorado for his six-week spring stint. I had had one of those days and all I needed was a good, hard workout. By the time I got the kids to bed, it was lightly raining and, when I looked outside, I decided I was in need of a cleansing run.

The decision to run around the circle road just outside our townhouse was a selfish one. I needed independence from the responsibilities of children. I needed a moment to myself. So, I ran. I ran around and around the circle, glancing at the front door of the townhouse each time. I was drenched and filled with endorphins by the time it was done. I bounded in the door and what stopped me in my tracks that day was the immediate visual of my worried six-year-old on the phone with his arm around his scared younger sister.

“Oh, she’s right here,” he said and extended the phone to me.

“Hello?” I breathlessly answered.

“Yes, ma’am, this is the 9-1-1 operator. Your son called us because he couldn’t find you.”

“Oh, I’ve just been outside,” I said, “I’m right here.” Panic replaced my runner’s high.

“Well, we’ve already dispatched a unit to your home, he will be there in a minute or two.”

I managed to adequately explain to the officer my son’s seeming abandonment was a misunderstanding and the disheveled nature of a house littered in moving boxes was totally normal. The situation must have looked as desperate as I felt in that moment. I was a young mother still striving to be productive and willing to traipse my family around the country to achieve something I have since discovered is too elusive to actually attain.

So, yesterday, as I stood dripping at the end of my path, I reached into my pocket for a phone to call my newly-licensed son. I could still walk, but it was a struggle with a fully-cramping calf, and I thought it would be easier if he could drive to pick me up. It took me a moment to realize, I didn’t have my phone.

My slow and methodical walk back in the pounding rain gave me time to enjoy how far I’ve come. I may be outrunning the abilities my body once enjoyed, and my kids may no longer see a brief absence as an emergency, (actually no one even really noticed how long I was gone yesterday) but I am finally in a place where I can gratefully experience the moments I’m given. No matter whether the moment is filled with joy and smiling or pain and grimacing, life’s moments are meant to be relished.

If I could go back to the college-version of myself I would tell her to go walk in the rain. And to my future self I want to tell her: run if you can, walk when you must, and when time takes from you the independence to do either on your own, find the people who will stand or sit with you in a rainstorm.

 

(for those of you wondering…it’s just a calf cramp…I should be fine:))

                     

Copyright Choosing to Grow 2016                                     www.meaganfrank.com

Flying High…Landing Slowly

Where’d You Grow Wednesday?

April 18, 2012

I grew in so many ways this week…I can’t write about it as well as I would like.

For those of you who know what I’ve been up to over the last week, you understand that I have been flying on cloud nine…literally.

I had the opportunity to attend the Female ADM (American Development Model) hockey symposium in Burlington, Vermont. The trip afforded me a chance to attend the World Championship for Women’s Hockey.  I learned so much that I could hardly describe my experience in a succinct blog post.  Instead I will highlight some of the biggies.

I LEARNED:

    • Flying in a small plane…in the spring…with plenty of turbulance…upsets my body.
    • My body…my ENTIRE body…responds to plane upset by sweating…A LOT!
    • Burlington has an adorable (and VERY small airport)…Newark, NJ does not.
    • Vermont has both water and mountains…but very few people.
    • Symposiums are an extremely great place for lifelong learners.
    • USA Hockey has their stuff together. Organized, well-run, and staffed with very committed and competent people.
    • Head microphones are great for moving about a room, but they are sensitive to breathing. 🙂
    • Presenting continues to be a passion of mine.
    • I live near one of the best resources for research about girls and women in sports. The U of M Tucker Center does phenomenal things.
    • Hockey people are a fun bunch. (I already knew that, but it was further confirmed over the weekend)
    • Canada’s Active for Life campaign inspires me.
    • Canada and the United States are years ahead of the rest of the world for the development of female hockey players.
    • The Canadian and American national teams put on a GREAT show in gold medal competition.
  • One of the Canadian captains, Hayley Wickenheiser, is certainly among the best female players to ever play the game, but she is also gracious, kind, and a fantastic representative for women’s hockey.
  • The IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) is doing some wonderful things to inspire growth of women’s hockey around the world.
  • Presenting to a crowd of Olympians and Olympic coaches is a pretty fun deal!
  • There is plenty of room for growth in both my presentations and in my body of knowledge.
  • I am inspired by inspirational people.
  • There are a lot of smart people intent on making sports better for kids!

I hope in the coming weeks, I can better verbalize all the ideas and thoughts that are floating in my head. I feel so incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity I did, and I am absolutely certain about a couple more things:

1. I am a new fan of elite level women’s hockey and

2. I am motivated to create more fans in the girls who love to play.

I do hope you’ve found a way to grow where you are, and if so, I’d love to hear about it.  Shoot me an email:  choosingtogrow@meaganfrank.com.

 

Happy Growing!

 

Copyright 2012     Meagan Frank                       www.meaganfrank.com          Choosing to Grow

 

Mr. J says, “A Good Teacher Can Be Taught!”

Mr. Jamal Abdur-Salaam, Wellstone Drumline Instructor Photo from "The Lab" blog

A reminder for anyone who cares about how children grow best…

Before he summons a beat…the stage is subtly littered with trash cans, lids, buckets, and drumsticks. It’s lined with chairs and the auditorium echoes silence.

Then they come. They come in from everywhere, funneling down near the stage, and settling near where he is. Except for a few who carry school books, their hands are empty.

It is recess after all.

The morning classes have ended at Wellstone Elementary School in St. Paul, Minnesota, and something special is about to begin.

It’s rehearsal time for the drumline, and they’ve come… to be with him.

____________________________________________________________________________

On the day I visited, Mr. Jamal Abdur-Salaam, a Behavior Intervention Specialist at the school, was already in the auditorium with a pair of students. One student was outfitting the buckets with drumsticks, and another was playing a game of cards with Mr. J.

I quietly found my seat at the table of the card players, and it became immediately apparent that this was no ordinary game of cards. With each card played, I realized that I was watching a lesson in character. The young man who calmly listened to Mr. J talk about classroom expectations and how it was possible for reactions to be different than they had been in the morning…the two of them kept playing cards.

Not too long before the drumline members congregated in the auditorium, this young man was quietly encouraged to change his behavior for the classroom teacher. He smiled in agreement and headed back to class.

It was the second time I had been impressed by the effectiveness of this gentle giant. The first time I saw Mr. J in action, he was rapping to the entrance beat for the Wellstone Drumline.


His energy was apparent, his enthusiasm contagious, and there was something else that came through with every word he uttered.

I watched the performance with my daughters and on the way home I asked them what they thought.

My oldest daughter said, “I would want to be in that group.”

Her younger sister agreed, “I want to drum too.”

“What did you like about it?” I asked them.

“That teacher was really nice,” the oldest explained.

“What did you notice about him?” I pushed.

“He was so positive,” she said.

That’s what I had noticed too. He had a passion for music, an energy for drumming, but more than that he had a belief in every child in that group that was undeniable.

I had to learn more…about him, about the drumline, and about how teachers, parents, coaches and mentor adults can learn from his approach.

So I went to Wellstone the Friday before their spring break to soak in their rehearsal and more of the man who helped to bring those 5-gallon buckets to life.

The pre-spring-break energy was palpable, evidenced in the wriggling bodies and distracted attention. I marveled at how he quietly reminded them why they were there and pulled them in to connected concentration. The rythem started…the synchronized movement of arms and sticks that forced a welling-up in my own chest. Watching that drumline come to life is truly an awe-inspiring experience.

The drumline started in 2005 in response to a need for some of the older boys in the school.  The building where Wellstone had been housed, did not have much room in the play-yard for the bigger more energetic sixth-grade boys.

“Recess wasn’t going the way it was supposed to,” Mr. J explained. A behavioral intervention was necessary and several of the boys were invited to join him at recess while he piddled on his drumset.

“Let me try!” they begged him, and slowly it became apparent that there was power in those drums. He let them take turns, but he realized he was going to have to find a better way to offer drumming to the number of kids interested.

So, the drumline was formed.  The boys who participated that first year made music out of anything they could find. They generally had a 5-gallon bucket each, one drumstick and a free hand.  They created beats, expended energy in that recess-time, and started to get good enough to share their talents with others.

After the first all-school performance, the music pounded through the audience, and it didn’t matter what anyone thought of them, Mr. J fondly remembers, “those boys became rock stars.”

Since that first year, interest in the drumline has exponentially grown. This school year, there are thirty members of the team, twenty-eight of whom were at rehearsal the day I visited.  Eighteen boys and ten girls lined up next to one another. They seemed invested in their individual job and compelled by the energy of the entire group.

Erik, a two-year member of the drumline explained, “Drumming helps me to be a leader…be a role model for younger kids.”

Drumline “teaches kids how to behave in school,” Shacara agreed.

The drumline is no longer just an alternative to recess, it is a privilege earned by lottery for the oldest kids in the school, and it is too popular to let every kid interested take part.

It’s not just about the drums.  With every instruction, Mr. J uses the opportunity to drive home positive character mantras. He asks them questions…and they reply in unison.

Everything you do is part of what?

A performance

Who are you?

WELL S-T-O-N-E

Why do you come?

To learn

And why else?

To figure out what we can do.

And why else?

To become.

The beat and the message are drummed in to the very soul of the kids who gather for drumline at Wellstone.

The students who are so drawn to this drumline know that Mr. J values each of them.

Caleb, a sixth grader who has been drumming with Mr. J since he was in second grade said, “He has faith in other people. He likes helping people.”

“He treats everyone like a niece or nephew,” first-year drummer Anthony explained.

And indeed he does. He wants to make a difference in the lives of these kids that goes well beyond the forty-five minutes he can tap out beats with them at recess.

“Even though we don’t always show it,” Erik said, “he helps us express how we are for real.”

The kids feel accepted and appreciated exactly the way they are. It is similar to the way Mr. J felt when he was a student in fifth grade.

Mr. John Mueller was a fifth grade teacher for Jamal who encouraged him and believed he could become something great. It is this belief that finds its way to the instruction that Mr. J uses with the students he teaches now.

“I want to be to them what Mr. Mueller was to me,” Mr. J said.

It is an effective teaching strategy that teaches so much more than academic content. It is a way to teach children to believe in their own potential.

And maybe that’s what we all need to be taught…that belief can come in five-gallon buckets and it can come in creating entertaining beats for a team. It can come in subtle investment in the kids in our lives as long as it comes from a genuine place of encouragement. Teaching, when done right, is too big to contain, and you never know how far it will travel…or how loud it will get.

Where’d You Grow Wednesday?

Powers Lake Woodbury, MN

Back in August, I had a brilliant idea. I wanted to start a weekly blog conversation about the ways people purposefully put themselves into new places. I had a bad title (Walkin’ on Sunshine Wednesdays)…. and….. I forgot to write any other posts. Even more inconsistent was the fact that I didn’t even walk!

So here I go again. The first Wednesday of the year, and my intention remains. I want Wednesdays to be the days I challenge myself to “go and grow” somewhere. It doesn’t have to be somewhere entirely new, but I want to take a photo,  and then write a quick blurb about how I’ve been inspired.

Today I went to the frozen version of Powers Lake. It’s the lake I walk all the time, but to watch its subtle changes through the seasons…I’m reminded how small I am, how little control I have over everything, and how I am meant to appreciate beautiful changes…both big and small. Plus, I just had to venture there today. It is 35 degrees and I saw four ice-fishing people.

(Note to self: explore most what you don’t understand)

Maybe next week I’ll venture INTO one of the ice fishing tents. If not, I will still make the point of going to and documenting how I grow next Wednesday.

I invite any and all people who would like to come along with me. Email me at: choosingtogrow@meaganfrank.com

If you send me photos, or a link to a blogpost, or  a tweet with the #choosetogrow hashtag (see…even I can speak twitterese!) or a Facebook link.  I will start to include other people’s Wednesday growth here too.

Happy Growing!!

Learn more about Meagan Frank at her website: www.meaganfrank.com