Sunday, February 26, 2017

I Have to Let You Grow Up


"Why did the fairy godmother cry at the end of the play, momma?" asked my older daughter as she was obviously still contemplating the steady stream of tears that flowed from the senior actress's eyes as she took one last bow on the stage of probably one of her greatest childhood memories.

"As excited as she may about college and growing up and whatever awaits her in the next chapter of her life, it's always a little sad to say good bye to the chapter in your life you're ending," I told her. They still looked slightly confused. "Our lives consist of chapters. Your childhood here with us is  your first chapter. Then you start a second one after you graduate school, and how many you write depends on how many doors you open and close in your life. But we all write several chapters as our lives are constantly changing and growing. You know how mommy use to grow up in Missouri where Nene and Papa and Aunt Kel and Te are, right?" At their nod I continued, "Well, as excited as I was to start a new exciting chapter out here with your dad where we would hopefully create the life that we did end up creating here with you kids, I was closing a huge chapter in my life back home. I probably cried all the way across the state of Missouri the day I left. As excited as you are about what's to come you still mourn a part of what you're leaving behind. It's all a part of growing up and moving through life."

"Mommy, I don't want to grow up. I don't want Lincoln to grow up," my younger daughter said for what was not the first time. In fact this growing up thing seems to have been weighing on her mind a lot lately as I had lost track of how many times she has told me this of late. I looked down at her with those huge hazel eyes framed by those ridiculously long lashes with all the innocence of five years old shining one that little precious face of hers that still has that soft feel of new baby skin.

God, how I wish I could keep her, her sister, and her baby brother bottled up in their childlike innocence, naïve to the sometimes harsh realities of the world. But the world awaits you, baby girls, and I have to let you grow up. Believe it or not one day you will be ready to grow up. You will be ready to walk out that door of your childhood, the silence that follows echoing in your parents' saddened heart because that door closes a chapter of our life as well as yours. We will watch in the shadows as you pursue the visions you spent your childhood fantasying and pretending about in your childlike wonder of the grown up world you imagined.

That grown up world may not always treat you kindly, but know it is yours to conquer. If you work hard and take risks for the life you want to build you can make it happen. Find your talents- and you have talent don't doubt that- and share them with the world. Know you are always enough. You are enough for the people that truly love you and you are enough for the roles you play. Take risks. It takes risks to find great success. Taking risks are how you make your dreams a reality. Life will get busy and crazy but always hold those that love you near and make time for them as the older you get the faster the sand will pass through the hourglass of time. It's okay to grow up. I don't want to let you sometimes, but you'll be okay.  Hold on to you great wonderful childhood memories and all the others you'll make as you move through life as those memories will get you through the tough patches. You'll be sad to leave some things behind but remember to focus on the great things that are always ahead, and great things are ahead for you both.





 

Friday, February 24, 2017

I Want Them to Know I Struggled

I just realized I'm coming up on five years of writing on this blog this coming May. I've written close to 500 posts, articles, and essays at this point.  I kept journals since the fifth grade and since my handwriting always sucked blogging seemed like a new fun way to log the chapter of my life as a mom though technically I had started that chapter three years before I actually started this blog. At first it was mostly stories of the girls, and I believe I wrote about 24 posts that whole first year but then as my first experience of depression in motherhood peaked a year later I wrote 22 posts in one month and the writing became about more about me and motherhood.

Now five years later I'm starting to seperate the personal family blog posts from the more motherhood journey published or publishable posts. They'll go in two different notebooks over the course of the life of this blog, but the girls will get both notebooks as well as my old handwritten ones that date back to when I met their dad.

I pray when they look back on their childhood they recall the joy and all the love; that their memories are full of our best times as a family, but I want them to know it all. I want them to know I and we struggled. In a world where truth and fiction get blurred and time erases the pain of struggle and heartache when you are living and breathing in those moments you want somebody to get it, you want to know you're not alone, and even as much you know it'll pass you still need the reminder. So I share my struggle, I share my pain, I share my doubt, and I share my failures. Because that's real life. It's not a picture perfect highlight reel on social media or the funny, happy stories Grandma and Grandpa share at their 65th wedding anniversary. There's a whole lot of hard painful truth in between.

I want them to know the struggle of loving each other but not knowing how to get along at times. I want them to know the struggle of losing that connection that once brought you together somewhere admist the chaos of raising kids. I want them to know the struggle of making time for each other again. I want them to know the struggle of stressing about money and wondering how you're going to make your dreams a reality much less pay all the bills that month. I want them to know the struggle money and stress from work and kids and keeping up with a house puts on your relationship. I want them to know the struggle of stretching yourself so thin as the last baby falls asleep you finally give into the tears as you allow the darkness of the day's struggles to consume you for a moment. I want them to know the struggle of feeling like somedays you're not enough. I want them to know the struggle of fear and the unknown.

Even though I may be next door or a phone call away time will diminish my pain and heartache of any struggles I have or may face, but in those notebooks they will find my struggles in the real raw time of the moment. If I have any gift at all with this writing thing this is where I can hopefully make the most profound connection of all. I want them to know in those moments they're not alone. I want them to know they are enough; they're just being too hard on themselves. I want them to know there's something great waiting on the other side of their struggle. I want them to know the work they'll put into their marriage, into their kids, into themselves is the greatest work they'll ever do. I want them to know despite the possible picture perfect stories being told around them they are the writer of their own beautiful, flawed story. I want them to know faith is their greatest ally in their struggle of fear and the unknown.

So in almost 500 posts I have maybe shared struggles others wouldn't, and hopefully I share my joy and successes in the same deep, over abundant way because the struggles and the joys coexist in real life. I want them to know our real life story someday. My oldest I feel recalls too much of the things I do wrong, where my youngest recalls more of the things I do right. But I need them both to know both and to know through the highs and the lows this family was the driving center of everything.







Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Fork in the Road

In my last post How Did We Get Here I looked back at the uncertain and doubtful moments we've had in the last thirteen years of our family journey to here where we are now and I hinted that we're once again facing an uncertain moment. Last week my husband found out the job he's been doing for the past two years that he's loved in a school he's loved under a supervisor he's loved was cut due to next year's school budget. He's also been in our school district's AP pool for about a year now and is still in that pool until Sept of 2018; however, unless he was transferred into an AP position he was really hoping to stay right where he was though it was a short term position created when he took the job to begin with. His principal is really hoping he'll get an AP position for next school year; however, even as much as her and other Title I supervisors of his has given him positive references he just keeps getting silence on the other end of his inquiries. We've also figured out from him trying to apply out of district and even out of state is no one is going to take someone from a teaching position (though he's been in leadership positions like this Title I program the past two years) to an AP position. Positions outside the district want him to come in as a teacher, go through their hoops, to then move into a AP position after he's already done a bunch of hoop jumping here the past three years so the thought of starting that process over somewhere else is just very discouraging. For right now he has a good five months though to heavily pursue AP positions in our school system, if openings ever start popping up.

Even though so many other teachers I have spoken to from ones in my school, others in our district but other schools, and even teacher friends in other parts of the country have validated my feelings of frustration with this position of late it is also sad that at times that's the only thing that makes me feel better about staying the course in this profession at times. This job creates a lot of anxiety. Anxiety where you can't sleep at night because you're wondering what kind of confrontational battle you're going to get into the next day, and you wonder if this time it's coming from a student, a parent, or a supervisor. Too frequently you feel on the defense of being attacked. It is an emotionally abusive job and some teachers will even tell you a physically abusive job, and unfortunately as others have validated for me it is similar to being in a toxic relationship at times. I have just really struggled this year and as I posted in my post Career Change I have also been researching a career change, but I also know rough years are usually followed by better years. Last year I had my best year ever in thirteen years of teaching, but on the other hand I have pretty strong feelings of disagreement with where our school district is headed with their recent changes. I feel that it's a huge disservice to the kids and their future. I have a hard time being a part of something I don't believe in.  The thought of doing the same thing for 30-35 years of your life just seems so uneventful as well, and I also know I took the position I'm currently in  three years ago that I only planned on being in temporary to begin with due to its distance from home. But even as much as we've tackled change, and both Nate and I have worked in five different schools in our thirteen years change is still hard. Obviously at the minimum we're both going to be changing schools in the next year or two. I already have my assignment in the same school for next year so unless I get an offer to try out middle school like I've wanted, to try out this different position (that would require an added endorsement to my certificate) I spoke to HR about the other day, or happen to get an offer into the school district where we live I will stay another year in my current position. I have a good five months to pursue those three options though.


So on one hand we're both happening for some big change in our current career path. It needs to happen for next school year or the following year at the latest. Due to the budget cuts that eliminated Nate's current job though we now feel an urgency for that change to happen for this coming year. However, due to our current frustrations we've started looking into the path my husband has wanted to pursue since he left home at 18 and went to culinary arts school. We've started looking at and inquiring about turn key restaurants for sale, have started speaking to a business lender, and have started brainstorming our "business plans" for our Winging It restaurant that's been our dream board for years but never went past the back of our minds, and now comes the part I've been mentally doing for two weeks now weighing the pros and cons of one path verse the other. So the teacher graphic organizer below is for our benefit but maybe you from the outside looking in will have something add.

Restaurant Pros

-own boss
-creating and seeing a vision become a reality
-established business to hand down to our kids if they want it
-rarely have to ever cook dinner again/lower home grocery cost??
-no commute
-I'll have more time "off" at home with the kids because I'll either work PT for insurance or not at all depending on location (Con for Nate though because he will be working all the time)
-moving (con too) but we would have our home in the same community as the restaurant and though I love our current community I also like the excitement of reestablishing yourself in a new place and if we left here the cost of living is almost lower in every other place we're looking at moving to
-closer to family (due to the con of time we're leaning towards being within an hour of one of our families for help with the business as well as the kids as well as eliminating the need to travel to see one family)
-vacation whenever (I could take the kids to go see my family whenever but it'd be a few years before Nate could probably leave for a week though I suggested closing Christmas week and having a strong manager and kitchen manager in place within two years so he could take time off for family)
-teach our kids valuable lessons (elaborated on below)

Restaurant Cons
-time (a huge one) as it'll interfer in our family life on the evenings and weekends as well as     eliminate time for our beloved traveling for pleasure and seeing extended family
-moving (con more so for the kids particularly the oldest who I think would have a hard time at first leaving her friends and starting a new school)
-money and insurance (based on the ##s I've been looking at with established places I think in a few years we would be fine and back to where we currently are, but my biggest personal financial concern is insurance which if I could find a job that let me work PT and have insurance for the family- like I would be able to do in my current school district-then this wouldn't be much of a con. Also want to have more $$ saved before we did this which I think we could have in 1-2 years and for sure with the selling of our house if we were moving)
-retirement????
  
Education Pros
-insurance
-time off
-hours fit with kids' schedule
-retirement in early 50s (though we may go do something else for awhile)

Education Cons
- the emotional drain on our mental health
-commute
-dictated vacation times
-missing job satisfaction at the moment (which is and has always been huge to me. I'm a strong believer in we spend too much time at work to not be happy at work)


As we've discussed where we're at with some we encounter some who admire our willingness to chase change and reinvent our lives; others will call us absolutely crazy and think we've lost our minds. Honestly with some of the things we've done in the past that's not anything new to us. Calling us crazy almost makes us want to do the "crazy" more.  Some will say we have no idea what we're setting ourselves up for, and I don't really know if I have a counterargument for that. How do we ever know until we try the unknown?  Some will cheer us on; others will hope for our failure. Some will say the grass isn't always greener on the other side; but our expectations isn't for it to be greener but for it to be a different experience with it's own benefits and disadvantages.

I also think about how we live our life can teach our children. It'll teach our kids they have never have to settle. It'll teach them to adapt and even seek change. It'll teach them to take risks.

The safer path is to obviously stay the course in education. That may be what we do. What happens in the next five months may make that the greater possibility. If little changes between now and about 18 months from now then trying a new adventure may be the new path, which is why we're doing our research, saving our money now, and talking to lenders because I don't think we'd jump ship this summer but I think we want to be ready to jump ship next summer if this path appears to reach a dead end. I hate uncertainty; I'm a planner. I like to know what's coming; what we're doing. For now I guess I have to watch the plot twists of our story unfold and see where it takes us. Wish us luck!

 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

How did We Get Here...

I feel like we're rounding this weird corner in life at the moment. Our oldest is about to turn 8. Eight!! How is that we've been parents for eight years already??? Our middle who was my baby for so long is getting registered for kindergarten next month. How is it that she's ready for school already and that we're about to have two kids in school?? Then the baby-he's about to turn a year old already- here in few months our last baby will be a toddler. How is this all possible? Where did our life go? Sometimes I feel like we're spinning on a merry go round and it's picking up speed and our life continues to flash by in a kaleidoscope of short little moments that blur out as new memories and moments quickly replace the past.

But being the moment catcher that I am whether it's through the endless amount of pictures I take or the snippets of our life on record here or in other journals I don't want us to forget the past, even the doubtful moments of struggle. Overcoming those are what reassures me again later when we face doubt and uncertainty once again.

Because here we are with these three quickly growing kids that give our life so much joy and meaning in the home we could raise them in, yet find ourselves in uncertain territory again. Just when we thought we had made it through all the hurdles and twists and turns of establishing ourselves and our life, we're unsure and find ourselves questioning what path we should take from here. This is where I think looking back at the road behind us matters.....



Sometime around this time of the year thirteen years ago I was debating whether to take our friendship a little further. I love you, husband, if you're reading this, and God knows you've come a long way, but not only did you have tattoos and earrings which were "no nos in the Williams daughter dating book" but your life was in the shitter for lack of a better explanation because I'll leave the details out. You were a pretty high risk gamble back then. (2004)

Then a year later again right around this time of the year I broke up with you as you like to remind me even to this day. Honestly, I was a big chicken. I was scared to death. We were talking about moving across the county together, and your life still wasn't in the greatest shape. More so than that though was the thought of being so far from home and my family. Pretty sure everyone was placing bets that I'd be back within a year, but we went. With literally a microwave, a box TV (remember those?), good ole Bettis, and our personal belongings. What do you know? Twelve years later here we still are. (2005)

A year from then-two years from the beginning- your life was definitely a little more figured out. However, how a bank ever approved us for a mortgage loan on poor credit was a risky gamble on the bank this time, but they gave it to us and we got our first house, spending the first night on a blow up air mattress with a cooler as our refrigerator beside us. (2006)

Those first three years which seem so long ago now were so clouded with uncertainty and doubt. They are why the song "Livin on  Prayer" always reminds me of us. We definitely struggled. We struggled with money, with each other, it was a struggle for me being so far from home, you struggled with starting a career in education.  They were not easy years. I would not go back to them, but I think they were valuable in molding us and even being a reminder to us in moments like this.

The next five when we got married and started our family as one of us finished grad school and the other started grad school we began to find our footing and momentum. We weren't as lost or uncertain anymore, but we weren't immune to struggle.  We struggled with money in a crashing economy that sank our home's value and skyrocketed gas prices for our long commutes on top of the added expense of a baby, the struggle of raising a family so far from family would leave us questioning our choice of where to live, but we started to figure it out and got more confident in where we were headed in this life. (2007-2012)

Five years ago though when the houseing market still looked very doubtful from the  market crash of 2008 we listed our house in hopes we'd get to move our girls out of the city before they started school. Unfortunately or maybe fortunately the possibility of selling it was as bleak as it seemed. In about six months we had maybe three showings. Moving was looking pretty doubtful. Luckily in the six plus years since we bought the first house our credit situation was in much better shape and though I was doubtful pursued what you always intended for that first house anyway. We rented it and moved out of the city and into a small town community like we always intended for our family. (2012-2013)

Though the financial adjustment of the move was pretty rough at first we were making progress towards our vision. Graduate degrees were done, had two of the originally planned three kids, we kept the first house to rent it, and bought a home in a small town to raise our family, we were officially vested in a career that guaranteed us a pension, but unfortunately two years ago after a second miscarriage followed by a rough post partum period after the second baby I was doubtful and uncertain on following through with having the third and final baby. Obviously as we look at our three babies now we got past that uncertainty.  (2015)

Doubt and uncertainty has always hovered on the edge whether it's been with our choices, making our dreams a reality, our financial situation, with each other (on top of the health ones with a back injury, depression/mood disorders, and Lincoln's heart and diagnosis scare) Though the struggles at times have been overwhelming and mentally exhausting, we've always overcome.

So here we are...Uncertain because we're not sure whether to stay the course and hope for some good luck or to veer off and select a new, more unknown one to explore other possibilities we've dreamed of but have been too scared to pursue. I don't know what we will do; what we will decide for sure. But I do feel confident in this. It'll work out; we'll overcome and we'll look back at this moment of uncertainty much like I just looked back at the ones that have already passed. If or when we do pursue change I know it will be hard; I know we'll struggle but I like to think at this point we know there's another brighter side on the other side of  struggle.

Next post I'll weigh out the pros and cons of our choices as I've been saying for the past two weeks I would do since we learned it might be time to revaluate our options sooner than we originally thought.



 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

To My Sister as She Steps into Motherhood

Little Sister,

I am so excited for you and this amazing journey of motherhood you've decided to embark upon.
I kept saying I wanted to write you a post about the truth of stepping into motherhood. Me, I know the writer- has struggled for days on how to sum it up? How do I explain to you it's a love like nothing you've ever experienced. You'll just see for yourself in the coming days, months, and years. The crazy thing even as much as you think you love him right now as you watch him grow into his own little person that love will even get more consuming than it is in these first few days.   Your heart now beats outside your body because it's all wrapped up in everything that child will see and do and be. You now have a front row seat to the most beautiful story you'll ever see told though it'll sometimes be funny yet other times frustrating and even heart breaking.

It's because of that fierce love you'll survive the nights and days on end of sheer exhaustion from too little sleep and too many demands. It's because of that love despite the moments you'll want to strangle your own child you'll still love him more than you ever thought it possible to love someone.

As you're about to take that baby home I don't know whether you're terrified or confident about  taking home this baby that you're now responsible for molding into some kind of responsible, successful, loving adult. Unfortunately- more so than fortunately probably- everyone and their mother will have advice and an opinion for you on how to do this motherhood thing. Literally everyone, including people you don't know, are going to tell you how to mother your child. Everyone is going to have an opinion on how to feed your baby, how your baby should sleep, how you should sleep, how you should feel, about what coat your baby should be wearing, why your baby cries too much, why your baby doesn't cry enough, why something is wrong with your baby because it cries too much or doesn't cry enough. Honestly as your older sister all that bossing around I've done to you over the last thirty plus years was really just to get you ready for this moment- to thicken your skin now and get ready to be bossed around like never before.

Here's the deal- bossy, know it all people like myself aside- some days you're going to rock this new mom thing and think "Forget those fools. I know exactly what I'm doing!" Then the next day maybe not so much. But honestly, here's the thing. Your baby isn't going to remember how many times you mess up this first year so it's all good. You will figure this out. What works for every other mom is not necessarily going to work for you, and believe it or not no one else knows better than you what's best for your baby, you, and your new little family.

Really when it comes down to it you just have to find your own way. Which will seem great and reassuring to hear one minute and terrifying the next because now that it's your kid you can parent all those ways you said you would when you watched from the sidelines, but other times it will be terrifying because well, no matter what you think you know or how you think you'll do things, those babies from day 1 have a mind of their own and some days you'll be begging someone to tell you what to do to just make that baby eat, sleep, poop, do whatever it is you want it to do. I wish I could tell you I have the answers but probably not.

As I said those babies have a mind of their own, and as much as everyone, maybe even you, will try to fit him into some typical mold, of what is typical for baby at such and such time, don't fret when the baby doesn't fit those molds. He will be his own person, different from you and your husband, different from his cousins, different in his own unique individual ways.

Some days you will love this motherhood thing; other days you'll wonder what were you thinking. Some days you'll think you want a half dozen more, and other days the one will seem like half a dozen by itself. Just remember you'll be fine. You will know and do what's best for your baby and you, and it may not be what other people think is best. But, hey, it's your kid this time so you can do this motherhood thing however you want! Just remember on the tough days- despite how much everyone else may seem to know how to do this motherhood thing-we all struggle. We all fail at different times in different moments, but that kid will love you no matter what. He will look at you like you're his whole world, at least in the beginning for awhile. Though it's easier said than done cut yourself a break on those hard days.

I wish your new little family the very best. This will be the toughest but most rewarding thing you've ever done.

 
 
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