My Word for 2021

If you've read Upcycled Education through the years, you know I often choose a word or phrase to support me during the year ahead.

Coaching is my jam t-shirt

Probably my favorite word that served me deeply was BRAVE (in 2014). I wrote a blog post here about my biggest takeaways from showing up more bravely that year.  I'm laughing at the photo in that post; I still wear those cheetah print slippers every today.  In fact, I recently included those slippers (pair #5 of my lifetime) in my Jen's Favorite Gift Guide post here.

The biggest dud of a word for me was in 2016, Savor.  I literally can't remember doing anything with that word that year, but choosing it and then forgetting I had.

I recently heard someone say they were going to "audition" words for 2021.  I love that - auditions!  Here's what I am currently auditioning:

True:  Being true to my soul's purpose + in doing so, finding peace and happiness
Faith: Having confidence and trusting (no matter how coo-coo life gets and seems)
Wonder: Being open to beauty, signs, and synchronicities

The other day I asked on Instagram what words you all were considering.  Push, community, open to change, move, evolve....were shared.  Reading those words makes me so curious.  AND, since it's December 31st and I am in the audition phase, I'll have to circle back and let you know which word or phrase I choose.

Or better yet, which word chooses me.

Happy last bits of 2020, dear friends.  Here's to 2021 ahead!

With love,

Happy Holidays 2020 + My Badges


Holiday Collage Jen Lara 2020

Dearest blog readers - How is your holiday season going?  Would you believe I came down with something on December 24th?  Not the 'rona (or at least my rapid and PCR tests both came back negative), but something - wicked headache, sore throat, nausea.  Ugh.  Totally un-fun.

Now days later, I am feeling much, much better.  So much better in fact, that since it's a mild winter day in Maryland today (high 50 degrees F), I might even go for a light run.  And by "light run," I mean peppy walk!

Speaking of peppy walk, my family and I watched Soul on Disney Plus two nights ago.  If you have watched Soul, you know the "young souls" earn badges before they go to earth to inhabit a body. My family thinks I earned more than one badge for "excitability" from the Excitable Pavilion (also, part of the movie).  I took their comment as a compliment though I know they often times wish I would turn down my life excitability and enthusiasm.  Ha!

I hope the last bits o' 2020 go smoothly!  And, here's to a bright, less-dramatic and still excitable 2021 ahead!

Happy Holidays! 



Why we are closing our business - Hello Strategies

As some of you know, Jackie and I are closing our business, Hello Strategies, at the end of 2020.  Why, you ask?  Let me explain....

Hello Strategies image

Five years ago, when we started our business, I (we) had a desire to make products we didn't think existed at the level that we wanted them to and share the products with others.  Jackie and I are both educators (and train teachers for a living), so we wanted to serve the people we care deeply about - current and future teachers.  We also are both trained coaches, so our products reflect our deep love of coaching, too.

Now, fast forward five years. We've sold hundreds of decks of our question/coaching/leadership cards.  We've spread joy and surprise by selling almost 2,000 You are Awesome wooden nickels. Our ebook has been downloaded close to 1,000 times (maybe more...).  What we set out to do - create products, share with others and live our core values deeply - done, done, and done.

What you focus on grows (J. Kelm quote).  Neither Jackie nor I want to prioritize Hello Strategies in this new age + stage of our lives.   It's time to thank her for her service and let 'er go.

In efforts to let her go, everything in our Etsy storefront is 50% with free shipping.  We have enjoyed serving you and others and now, help us find forever homes for the last of our You are Awesome nickels, decks of cards and our teaching strategies ebook.

December 31st at midnight, doors close....for good.

It's been a fun, creative ride. Thank you for letting us serve you!


Shinguard Rash - The Cure

I am going to say this without exaggeration.  I've been wanting to write a blog post about shinguard rash for over a year.  I know, I's a strange topic for me to blog about.  This topic, however, is near and dear to my heart because of these legs below.

Shinguard rash

Y'all know I am mom to Miss Olive who we used to call Lil O on this blog.  Then, she grew up.  Miss O is now in high school and is three inches taller than me!  Next week, she gets her learners permit to drive.

For at least four years, Miss O dealt from extreme shinguard rash from wearing field hockey shinguards.  We tried every type of shinguard, liner, cream, powder, you name it under the sun and nothing - I repeat, nothing! - helped her shins not be all red and rashy.  

....By the way...I asked Miss O if I could post a photo of the actual rash and she declined.  I told her it was a public-service-message-blog post.  She still declined.  

Then, we found a solution.

If I was religious I would thank some deity.  But, in this case, I am thankful to a sales person we met in Delft, Netherlands at a lovely field hockey shop there (photos below).  You see, the Dutch have mastered the game of field hockey.  Most of the best field hockey players in the world are Dutch.  AND, because of the popularity of field hockey, there are so many different field hockey brands and products there.

Jumbo Hockey Rijswijk Delft
Jumbo Hockey Rijswijk Delft Netherlands
Jumbo Hockey Rijswijk Delft Netherlands

At this shop above, we checked out the liner and shinguard section, but nothing seemed too, too different from what Miss O had already tried in the States.  When we asked the sales woman if she had any recommendations for shinguard rash, she replied, "I get shinguard rash, too.  I only wear Stanno liners." 

Stanno liners?  What are those?  

Since the shop didn't sell Stannos, she directed us to purchase the Stanno liners online (as they are not sold in the States either). We had the liners shipping to our hotel in Delft.

...Cue ethereal music...and I'm serious.

These Stanno liners (with antibacterial technology) changed Miss O's life/legs.  To date, 18 months later, Miss O has not had shinguard rash once since wearing Stannos under her shinguards.  NONE.  How crazy is that!  The Stanno liners fixed her shinguard rash in under a week and have kept her from getting shinguard rash again.

Since Stanno does not mail directly to the States, we ended up buying more Stanno liners from a company out of the UK (link here) who was kind enough to ship more Stannos to the USA. We wanted enough Stanno liners for Miss O to last an entire week of field hockey (without doing laundry).

AND, here's some fun news!  I have two extra pairs that I would love to share with you.  Yes, love!  I want to give them away to two different people who also have tried every cure under the sun for shinguard rash and nothing has worked. I want you to find out if Stannos will fix your shinguard rash.  Field hockey players, soccer players, cricket players or any athletes in the USA with shinguard rash,  reach out to me.  I will send you a pair of Stannos to keep and try.  I just have two pairs (and only want to send by mail domestically), so I'll send them to the first two athletes that contact me.  Normally, I would direct you to leave me a comment below, but lately, my comments have been all spam, so I've turned off comments for a while.  You will have to be creative and find me.

Oh, and if you haven't seen Miss O in a while, here she is....not so Lil O anymore (photo cred: Mark22photos)


Dream Queue - An interview with myself

If you are new to this blog, here's something you need to know about me.  I generally have a Dream Queue.  

Depending on what's in the queue or what's going on in my life, that Dream Queue is either moving along at a lovely clip or pace or man, that queue is stuck.  Recently, my Dream Queue was totally stuck.  So, let's interview myself, shall we? 

.....By the way, if you have ever wondered what (life) coaching is like, this interview is what coaching is like.  A lot of thought-provoking, honest questions and not the coach giving advice.  Let's go to my inner self interview...

Hey Jen, what's a Dream Queue?

A Dream Queue is the place inside me where all of my dreams and big ideas go to wait for their turn.

Why do you capitalize Dream Queue?

Because it feels like it's a proper noun and deserves the attention and recognition.

What makes the queue stuck? (Hmmm...notice the lowercase....)

Great question!  What makes my Dream Queue stuck is time (or feeling like I have lack of time). Or that work projects or classes I am teaching need my full attention and that I don't have space for dreams-into-action.  Also, malaise and fear of the unknown.

What gets the queue unstuck?

Writing about it like I'm doing now.  Coaching.  I recently got coached on my Dream Queue and finally have some answers.

What are the answers?

The answers are that some dreams need to wait their turn.  Some dreams are more time sensitive. Some dreams require me to collaborate with others (which leads to some stuckness....who do I want to collaborate with right now? Not everyone floats my boat).  Some dreams ignite fear within me like "Will the time spent on this dream pay off?  Will my return on effort pay off?"

When you say "pay off" do you mean money?

Not necessarily.  Some dreams and ideas could generate extra income, but many dreams just generate joy - which to me is as important as real dollars.  Actually, now that I am typing this...I think both are true.  I like real money and joy.

So, what's holding you back, Jen?

Great question.  What's holding me back is feeling like I have to get XYZ done before I begin moving my dreams through the queue.  

What's true?

What's true is that yes, I do have some things that need to get done in life (like work, prepping for next semester, making sure my holiday shopping is complete, etc.) AND, in reality, those are excuses for letting my dreams sit in the queue for too long.  What you focus on grows is one of my favorite quotes.  I've been focusing on distractions and small wins.  AND afraid to put forth effort into bigger, dreamier projects that may - in the short term - not feel like they are paying off.

What's next knowing this?

I am just realizing something....I need more small, micro wins.  I crave more micro wins. Some of my Dream Queue ideas are so big that it feels like 6-12 months before I could see them paying off.  The fear inside me doesn't want to wait so long to see "if" a dream is going to take off, workout, or generate joy or extra income.  What I am also realizing is I need to take my big dreams and break them up into smaller chunks.  Then, tackle one chunk at a time.

Jen, why are you shaking your head?

I'm shaking my head because I missed this!  I missed that one, big dream is really just an accumulation of small, small steps.  

What do you want to commit to, Jen?

I want to commit to taking one of my dreams out of the queue and making a list of all the small steps - small wins - I need to accomplish to make that dream come completely alive. Then, I will start taking a step one after another.

Jen, how will we know you've done that?

I'll report back here.


With new insight and apparently a dream about to become queue-less,


Gift Guide - Jen's Favorites

Y'all, this pandemic, I've been one consistent user and wearer of certain items.  Here are my favorites in case you need last minute gifts for others or yourself.  

Gift Guide Jen's Favorites

Favorite joggers.  The fabric is so darn soft and they run true to size.  I love the camo print. Bonus:  Miss O loves their leggings.  Both look like Lulu knock-offs for ¼ of the price.

Be Hippy beanie.  I'm obsessed with this hat.  It's so cheerful and warm.

Leopard printed slippers.  I am on my third pair of these for the pandemic.  My feet love them.

Faux bun.  Because sometimes on Zoom you need a quick, last minute up-do!  And for $8, why not?

Winter jacket.  This REI quilted jacket is my absolute go-to.  It packs up super small, so post-pandemic we can all bring it on trips with us.

Running shoes.  Are you like me and walking (and jogging) a ton?  Brooks are my fav.  This model is my favorite, too.

Charcoal bags.  Being at home all the time, I find myself wanting our place to smell fresh and clean.  These bags help.  I hang 'em in all of our closets.  You are supposed to be able to recharge the bags in the sun every 1-2 months.

Coaching cards.  I use these powerful question cards to coach others and self-coach.  Right now, everything on Hello Strategies is half-off with free shipping!

Happy shopping, friends!


Year in Review 2020 Activity + Download

Hello, dear friends during a pandemic!  I'll write more soon and in the meantime, if you'd like a lovely tool to bring 2020 to a close and think ahead for 2021, here you go.

This is the same tool I use with coaching clients; you get to use it for free!  Enjoy the download here and feel free to direct others to Upcycled Education so they can download it, too.

I have a few more blog posts in the hopper.  More soon!