One year ago I met Serene. The school district I belong to was launching a new pilot program to promote family engagement within our school district. Serene, myself along with about thirty other strong, powerful women were chosen to take part in this pilot program.
It was the second training session early one Saturday morning. I pull into the school parking lot at record speed, because naturally, I was running late. Before I knew it, a cute little SUV pulled up beside me with tires screeching. I breathed a sigh of relief. Clearly, I was not the only one who was running late.
In a hurry, we both exited our respective cars, grabbing our belongings, and coffee, trying to pull ourselves together while hoping no one would notice exactly how late we were. Immediately, I took a liking to Serene.
“How ya doing, I’m Serene, are you here for the parent facilitator class?”
With my arms full of notebooks, and my very large purse, I quickly took in the strikingly beautiful woman beside me.
“I am. I mean I am late so I am probably not off to a very good start, but yes I am here…barely.”
Serene and I fall into a nice sprinting rhythm as we make the walk from our cars, across the parking lot to the school. By the time we entered the school we already knew how many kids we each had, how long we had been married and what school our kids go to.
Serene and I are climbing the three flights of stairs to the school library, hoping we can just sneak in unnoticed. Serene asked me “Now, tell me, how did it go last week? I was unable to make it to the first class. How was it?”
Trying not to showcase how clumsy I really am by rushing up three flights of stairs, I look at Serene. “Oh! I have to tell you, it was so much better than what I was expecting. I enjoyed it.”
Serene readjusts her very large purse.
“I see. Now tell me, why do you say that? What were you expecting?”
“Oh I don’t know, honestly, I was not sure what to expect. I thought it was going to be a long day of boring lectures, but it was good. I took notes if you want to take a look.”
We made it up to the library all in one piece and took our seats at a table next to each other. Because of the small and apparently noticeable fact that we were both late, we were then paired up as partners for the day.
It was a good training class. Each one of us had a very detailed book that would serve as our training material. It would also serve as a guide for parents who we would eventually be facilitating. The class was a five-week program, and each week a new topic would be discussed. Everything from the best means of connecting with the teachers, to dealing with racism in school. Pretty intense.
About halfway through our training session, one of the “big wigs” from the district came up to speak to all of the new parent facilitators. You know how it goes, the “big wig” gave us all a pretty bad ass motivational pep talk, she assured us she had faith in us. Her closing words, she looks into the crowd of thirty plus newly nervous parent facilitators and says “This program has been in the work for years. There was a lot of loopholes we had to go through, we had a lot of waiting time to see if we would even get approved for the grant. I would like to give a special thank-you to Serene, who wrote the book that all of you will be using as your guide to facilitate your respective classes.”
I about choked on my orange juice. I look over at Serene, who is trying with all her might to not make eye contact with me. In what I think is a whisper but really is not, I say to her “Umm, hello! You wrote the book?!?!?! In the five hours we just spent together you did not think that maybe that was something you would have brought up?!”
Serene is sitting there, poker face on. This beautiful well put together woman who is dressed to the nines, hands placed perfectly in her lap, trying to keep her poker face intact. “Girl, they were not supposed to mention that. Turn around, shhhh, don’t say anything.”
I look at her. I reposition my chair, I look at her again.
“Fine! Who knew there was a local celebrity in our mix?!”
Serene was on the verge of breaking her poker face.
“Girl, I will beat your butt, now turn around.”
“Fine, but not before I get you to autograph my book. Something along the lines of “To my new BFF Jennifer, you are an amazing….”
“You better stop!”
Fast forward one year.
Serene and I are back at it. This is the second year the program has been in effect. I am lucky enough to have Serene as my coach. This woman is amazing. The first thing she will tell you, the first thing she will tell anyone is “I am a woman of faith.” And, it shows. She is such a strong confident woman, who always knows just how to say the right thing.
On Tuesday, as we are getting ready for our class, prepping the room, going over our notes, I looked at her and asked. “How do you know everything you know? Did you go through training, or are you just naturally this wise?”
Serene explained to me that she always likes to listen. She says there is something to be learned from everyone you come in contact with, and it all starts with listening.
Today, at the school, we had a meeting. It was Serene, myself, and our site coordinator, Rachel. Now, between you and I, I did not want to be at this meeting. I had two sick kids at home, I was exhausted. I had other school obligations I had to deal with, but this was a paid meeting so I had to “Cowboy Up” put my game face on and be in the moment. Right?
Both Serene and Rachel (important to note, I have a wonderful relationship with Rachel as well) are going to be out of town on Tuesday when we have our next class. What that means you may ask. Well, it means that it will just be myself running the class. Typically, it is Serene and I running the meetings. I feel we do a good job of playing off of each other. I was a bit concerned how Tuesday would play out, and by “concerned” I mean a shit show waiting to happen.
Serene looks at me. “Jennifer, you got this. I know you can do it. Here’s the thing. You stand behind the curtain because that is your comfort zone. It is time for you to stand in front of the curtain, pull that curtain back and announce to the world “I am here, I am here in front of the curtain, I am the main event.”
I told you she was good.
Rachel looks at me, she looks at Serene.
“Serene, I have to tell you, Jennifer is so good with writing. She has a gift. I read her post, I read her blog, she takes me to another place. That is her gift.”
The meeting just got interesting, right?!
Serene gets excited, she sits up in her chair, she looks at Rachel, she looks at me.
“Let’s talk about that Jennifer. So tell me, what are you doing. You are a good writer, so what are we doing to make this happen?”
I already know Serene is going to lay into me in a “mindblown” kind of way.”
“I mean, well, I have a blog.”
I can see Serene get excited. She has something to say.
“Ya know, I was just talking to another young lady about this. A blog is good. It is an outlet, but my question for you, why give away something for free? Here is your assignment, when I see you in two weeks, I want more from you. I want a title, and I want subplots. I want you to write. Just write. Do not worry about getting published, editing, all that jazz, you write something powerful. This is just an example, you write about being the parent of an autistic child, then your subplots would be, how does it affect your marriage? How do you navigate the school system? How does an autistic child affect your other children? You have your topic, you have your subplots, and you write, because this is the gift that God gave you, you make it count. All you worry about is writing and we will check in in two weeks.”
Serene pulls out her phone, goes to her Google calendar and types in “Holding Jennifer accountable, check in.”
Again I say, Serene is a bad ass.
The three of us, Serene, Rachel and myself continue our talk. Rachel brings up how important it is to have like-minded woman standing in your corner, always backing you up. Serene made a reference to the church.
My defense was down.
“I struggle with that. I know my family wants to see me back in church, but it is hard.”
Serene is nodding her head, Rachele is talking about a devotional club she belongs to.
Again, you can see the excitement on Serene’s face.
“Do not even get me started on devotional. Jennifer, that is 365 days worth of writing material right there. You could write daily devotions about dealing with autism, talk about being a wife, a mother. A devotional series is one of the easiest to get into. Let me tell you something. The church is a building. It can be a good building, but the people behind it, well there is your church. A real church is the people who God brings into your life. Like us right now. Three women coming together, this can also be your church, the support, the belief that we are all here to serve God. Jennifer, one year ago, God knew what he was doing. It was his plan for us to meet.
Serene turns to Rachel, “Let me tell you how we met. It was the second week of training and Jennifer and I both pull into the school late…….”