Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Write a New Chapter or Write a New Story

If  you follow us on our little life journey lately you know we've been looking at making some rather big changes- moving out of state and/or making a complete career change. However, those are not easy changes to tackle. As anxious or excited as some may be for us to just do it or others may think "quit talking about and just do it" there's a long list of things to consider and I need this space to get my thoughts around it all. If you want to brave my tangled thinking with change on the horizon ahead read on; if not see you next time.

We've invested twelve years into our careers and life here in Maryland so leaving it behind is not something we take lightly. But big changes are coming either way, but at this moment it's more of a question are we going to write a new chapter or are we going to write a whole new story??

The current situation is this: I am working at a school that on a good day I spend two hours of my day commuting or on a bad day it's more like two and a half hours. When I took this job I said it would be a three to five year thing depending on my personal job satisfaction with a new school change and my tolerance for the commute in heavy Baltimore traffic. I am wrapping up year three now, and whereas last year was probably one of my most personally satisfied years with the job this year was not so much. Apparently I was not alone though. It didn't matter if I was talking to other teachers in my school, in my school district, in my state, or in this country-teachers everywhere it seems had one of their worst years to date. I'm not going to get into all wrongs of education right now, but the point is I don't know if I can give this profession another seventeen years of my life to make it to thirty years.

The situation for my husband is after putting in countless evening hours and weekends over the course of two and a half years he got his Masters degree in 2014 to become certified as an educational administrator. The school he was working in at the time was not going to give him any opportunity or support in pursuing that goal so a year later in 2015 he left that school and joined me on the 2-3 daily commute. However, he gained an amazing boss and administrator that has been completely supportive of his goals to become an administrator. She gave him the job of Title I coordinator these past two years and has spoke highly of him to others in his pursuit to gain an administrator position. A year later in 2016 he was accepted into the administrator pool a year ago; however, they school system overflooded the pool with  hundreds of people when there were barely any openings for last school year. He returned to his similar position this past year which he enjoys very much, but the concerns with that as we've learned this year is there is little stability in it from year to year. Because it is Title I funded he has faced the possible threats of his position being cut altogether or having his hours/pay reduced. On top of that his administrator is looking at retiring in the next few years so to lose her as support and a mentor could be a huge drawback in his own movement forward. We have also figured out over time, though he is willing to look at schools outside our district the problem we've found is they will not accept someone from a "teacher" position to an "administrator" position so his option is to hope he finally gets an AP position in our school district that has 100s of applicants for dozens of openings or go backwards to a teacher position in another school system and take years to jump through their political loopholes.

So here's the current deal. He's in this administrator pool until the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year. He's worked really hard over the course of years to hopefully finally get an opportunity to be an educational leader as a principal. We don't want to throw all that away yet, especially when he has two more hiring seasons (this spring/summer and next year's) to get a position. As for me, I feel my plans are somewhat based on what happens with him, but I have an interview scheduled in May for what I call my dream teaching situation- to teach in the community in which I live. Not only would I gain about two hours back to my day, but I have never experienced living and working in the same community and with my kids getting into school I would love to have this experience. If I could have that opportunity and experience but still decide I want to leave before thirty years I feel I could do it without looking back at that point. It's the same for Nate. If he could experience the position he's put all this work into the past few years and still decides to leave before the clock strikes thirty years I think he can do it with a clearer conscience.

Our current hope is this- that we get to write at least this one last chapter to the A & N Maryland story. Our plan A is he would get an AP position with a better commute for next school year and I would get into the school district-hopefully a school even in the town where we live-for next school year even though mine comes with a pretty decent pay cut. Then we would each get to experience our ideal educational job before making our final decision on whether to stick with it to the thirty year mark or cut out early.

Plan B would be if he gets an administrator job and likes it enough that he thinks he'll stick with it past the next two years and I am still in the same school district where I've spent the past eleven years then I  would look into going back to school to get my library media certification to become a school librarian. Or I may see if there's a way to get my school counseling certification which might be easier since my masters was originally for school counseling. Even if Plan A works out and I get into the school district/school here where we live, if my husband decides he is interested in staying in education for the long haul and pursuing his Adm I to become a principal of his own school I would possibly still look at getting an out of the classroom certification. There's still that possible Plan B option 2 where I would maybe make a complete career change and look into the certification classes that I was talking about for lactation consultant/doula/childbirth educator/maternal health counselor, but if I have to take courses again as a working mom I'd probably stick with the education out of the classroom path for the reasons of the better fitting schedule with my kids and earlier retirement that comes with that choice.

Then there is Plan C. Whereas Plan A and Plan B just write a new chapter to the A & N Maryland story, plan C is to write a whole new story. I have to tell you I'm not even sure which scenerio I want to play out right now. It's like living in our own "Plan your Own Adventure" book. On one hand the thought of doing the same thing for our whole working career life just seems kind of a letdown. But on the other hand it offers so much stability- it offers a good amount time home with our children, stable paychecks, insurance, retirement in our 50s. But if the job is too much of a suffocating, life draining, depression and anxiety inducing experience that's not really the way we want to live until we're 50+. I have always enjoyed working and I've said it before I have a very hard time accepting that I have to spend my time working in unhappiness and frustration.

My husband is the dreamer whereas I'm more of the realist, but I'm still a chase your dreams  kind of person when I want to be. Leaving education behind offers that; it offers something new and different. It's an opportunity to chase other dreams that some of us either abandoned years ago or ones that have taken shape as we've moved through life.

Ever since I've known my husband he's wanted to open his own restaurant. He went to culinary arts school in one of the top culinary arts schools in the country,  Johnson & Wales.  Before I met him and when I first met him he worked in restaurants  where he functioned in  pretty much every position there is in a restaurant. Now he's developed the leadership skills managing people and budgets and supplies through his leadership work in education. He has true talent. The man can cook; and the man is very good with people. People like him, are drawn to him, listen to him, and believe in him; he can lead people.  He's had his own original recipes for years. I truly believe he could make a helluva a go at it in the restaurant business world.

So we've spent a lot of time the past three months researching, thinking, talking to the point that if our Plan A or B doesn't work out within the next two school years I have a budget plan established that should hopefully get us the funds we need to take this huge leap of faith in the spring of 2019- just two years from now. We have talked to a business lender already about what we need to be approved to start a business, we've done a little research on locations and nearby competition in those location, and Nate's started to brainstorm his actual business plan.  He would be taking the lead on this; though I'd be his partner in some ways he'd really be my boss more times than not. I'd handle the books when it comes to scheduling, budgeting, and probably also the advertising and promoting where he'd run the kitchen and the dining room and manage the staff more so than me. But this would take A LOT of his time so I would get to pursue something I've always wanted-be home more with my children (at that time the youngest would be in preschool) and hopefully work on publishing more of my writing.

The scary drawbacks here are we lose all that stability we loved in education. I may be home more with the kids but what about our time as a family traveling and vacations?   I truly think he could establish a place that could make us a pretty decent income of equal if not greater than we have now but just not right away of course. And what about health insurance? That is one of my biggest concerns and something I still have to do quite a bit of research on. The other big decision when you decide to end one story of your life and completely write a new one is where do you want the setting of your new story to take place?

This is something I'm not sure we're quite sure about yet. As much as I love Maryland, and it will always hold a special place in my heart I kind of want to write our new story elsewhere. I would like to get closer to my family. We have traveled the whole eastern side of the country east of Kansas City except New England (Boston- Maine maybe next summer???) so I'd like to get over closer to the other side of the country to eventually hit all those National Parks out west on our trips during the kids' teenage years.  .

I am heavily leaning towards the Lake of the Ozarks. There are many things I love about the thought of going there.
       1. It is close to my family but not super close. I love my family but I've been on my own for over a decade so I need my space! LOL. About 3-4 hours sounds about perfect. We could get to one another in need if needed but they won't be all up in my business!
      2. The schools are pretty decent. Schools are good where we currently are, but some of the places we've considered one of the big drawbacks have been the schools as we want to live and have the business in the same town so good schools are a must.
      3. I really like the idea of opening a business in  a tourist area so not only is the potential to make decent money pretty good but because there are peak seasons we could have a few months off similar to our teaching schedule to return to our traveling dreams as the kids get older.  Rather than the Fall being our busiest, most stressful time Mem-Labor day would be, and rather than our off time being June - August it would be more like Feb-April as places there close for the winter months. We'd probably stay open until the Superbowl, but I'm all for closing up shop for a month or two and hopefully even closing a day or two during the week during the off season school months. Though if Nate found good managers I'd see him chopping that idea. With our less busy time being the school year I love the idea of being able to more easily attend the kids' stuff at school. Our busiest time being when they're out of school could be drawback, but I also see them as they get older making it their summer job so they can help pay their way through college!
   4. Another thing I feel is a positive about this area is we're bringing in a product/brand that is not in abundance in that area.  Since we're willing to pretty much relocate anywhere a smart move would be to go where there's not a lot of competition for restaurants like we have in mind.  Though we've looked around western New York and Pennsylvania those are areas are pretty well known for wings with not only Buffalo Wild Wings but Quaker Steak and Lubes and Anchor Bars as well as the Pittsburgh and Buffalo area just have lots of really good small non chain places that are locally well known for wings, but as you head west and really south too there's Buffalo Wild Wings and that's about it. There's actually a pretty good need for another awesome wing type of restaurant in the southern, Midwest, and western part of the country. When I've done searches for best wings in most areas I'm always amused when KFC or pizza chains like Papa Joe's pop up because I don't just believe he can open a successful restaurant I believe he/we can create a successful brand that has the potential for great expansion. He has a dream, I have a plan, and together we have quite the vision. I've reached a point in my thinking where to not see where this path could lead would just be one of those huge end of life regrets.

There's huge risk in this without a doubt. We'd be investing money into this that we could or possibly should have saved for our retirement years but I still see it as a "retirement" from teaching anyway so even if I look at the worst case scenario and we lose that money it still seems worth it for the break to experience something different. We can always go back into education if we had to. I always believe there's great value in failure, but also on the other hand you can't reach the possibility for great success without risking failure.

Would it be a hard adjustment? YES without a doubt. Does just the thought of that stress me out? Yes, already at times. I know change always comes with it's own set of growing pains. Success won't just happen overnight. It's going to take years of work and dedication. But we're not 20 something years old anymore, so I like to think now in our older, more wise years we can go into this knowing it's going to be difficult at times, we're going to be anxious and worried on whether we're succeeding or failing. We're just going to have to be ready to pull up our big boy and girl pants and be ready to sacrifice some of our time, our money, and some of our other dreams like traveling for the time being, and be ready to go at hard all hands on deck.

With his talent and me with just the right kind of brains we need for this operation I truly believe we can be highly successful. I'm sure we will without a doubt butt heads and possibly want to kill one another at certain times because that's just the way this partnership of ours operates. We have such a great successful partnership though because we excel in different ways but sometimes we're each too hard headed to want to listen to the other at times. But if we get through the growing pains without killing each other I really believe we can leave an amazing legacy behind for our kids. It's not even so much the legacy of leaving a profitable successful business but more so the taking of  a vision and made it a reality, something that will hopefully inspire them to do the same as they embark on their own dreams.

 I really hope we each get the chance to write that one last chapter in education we envision , but even if not I can still say we wrote one helluva a story here. Choosing to move on from Maryland and education isn't because we failed here, it isn't because we're not happy with how this life turned out and want a do over, it isn't because this life isn't good enough. It's about living life to the fullest; it's about allowing your dreams to change and giving them a chance; it's about trying and experiencing as many things as you can in this one life.  We wrote an amazing story here for our kids. Even as much as I may complain about my career in education lately, I don't want that in the end to overshadow the positives I've experienced in this job or the amazing kids I've met in this story.They are part of the reason I feel we need to follow through on our own dreams. I've taught the American Dream and been encouraging kids to chase their own dreams for about a decade now; I don't just want to preach it. I want to live what I say. There's a part of me that is sad at the thought of leaving teaching, especially on weeks like this where I've enjoyed myself. It does feel like leaving a part of yourself behind., but I've learned we teach people not just in the classroom.

We teach and inspire people in the way we live our lives. The biggest people we can teach and inspire are those three pair of eyes that watch and take in everything we do. Though it is choosing to end a story we fell in love with that though challenging at times we wouldn't change for the world, rather than staying the course and continuing to write new chapters I'd rather show our kids how you can live more than one story in your life. Our lives don't have to be a series of chapters to the same story; rather we can write a series of different stories in our one life.

My sixth grade teacher told me one day I'd write the next great American novel. Though she continued to foster my love for writing I never really believed her. That's a pretty hefty prophecy to fulfill. But maybe the prophecy wasn't about writing the actual novel; maybe it was about the story we'd write in the life we live. The American story I want our kids to know.  There may be one more last chapter to this Maryland A & N story, but then we're looking onto writing a new story in a new place in a new life. We write our own stories in the lives we live; let's make a memorable one!




 

Friday, April 21, 2017

#MOMAZING


A little over eight years ago I became a mom for the first time to a beautiful baby girl. When I look back at the very beginning of my motherhood journey I still see it with these rose colored glasses of pure bliss. Between my maternity leave and summer vacation as a teacher I had about six months at home with her and then I went back to work full time including coaching a Fall sport. I had always been a list checker, sometimes over achiever, occasional perfectionist so I tackled motherhood the same way. At first I didn’t really understand what all the fuss about it being so hard was all about. I had this. I was a rock star at this whole career momma thing.

So two and half years later we added baby #2, another precious baby girl. Except she was colic, I had a two year older toddler, a full time career that I just couldn’t give the same dedication to anymore, and we were in the process of moving and it all started to unravel.  The pressure to succeed, to do well was like nothing I’d ever experienced, even more than as a pitcher with a full count and the bases loaded. I struggled. Like the stand in the shower and just sob in frustration kind of struggle or the step outside of your house to escape to just take deep breaths before you lost your shit on somebody. I made mistakes. I failed. I let motherhood defeat me, and I hated myself for it. But I remember one day when I was having a rough day and my then four year old told me she loved me even when I was mad and upset that I truly started to understand how differently  they saw us than we saw ourselves.

This struggling and feeling like I was failing wasn’t what I envisioned in my successful idealism of balancing life, career, and motherhood. It was like I had gone from this graceful masterful trapeze artist that suddenly lost her balance as the crowd waited in hushed tones to see if I’d regain my footing. Whereas everyone else seemed to still be that graceful trapeze artist as they navigated the trenches of motherhood here I was the clown of my own circus show of motherhood trying to juggle way too many balls in the air. Just as all the things that go up must come down, it all crashed around me. After a year I final spoke to a Dr. Though I believe part of my problem was post partum depression by the time I sought help my second daughter was well over a year old and they actually labeled my depression as a symptom to a thyroid disorder they found that I had.

But it was at that time when I was struggling the most with this motherhood thing that I started to write. When we become mothers we are remade. Motherhood I've come to see is the journey from the girl we were to the woman we become. We will never be the same person we were. We evolve and change as we adapt to this most important profound role of our lives. Sometimes we get a little lost on our way.  As I taught students by day as they navigated their own search for self journey through the trying years of adolescence I navigated my own journey at night through my writing as I searched for this new woman that I now was as a mother of two.

Here’s what I learned as I wrote away about the highs and lows of being a mom and balancing life. Searching for perfection is a falsehood that steals our joy. I love the internet and social media. We now have the “internet” to tell us all the ways we are doing this motherhood thing wrong, all the ways we aren’t “enough”, all the ways we need to change to be better. This was peer pressure was greater than I remember from the adolescent days of high school! It may seem like everyone is great at everything but really we’re all just great at different things. We each need to find our uniqueness as a mom and embrace it! I learned I was enough. You are enough. We must love ourselves on the good days and love ourselves even more on the hard days, ladies.

My sisters and I were athletes growing up and our Dad when we would get down on our capabilities to win a game would tell us to get out of our head. I still find that to be so true today in motherhood. Due to depression after the second and then two miscarriages leading up to my third child I have to remind myself of this often. Our doubt lives there and it waits for us to struggle or a threat of failure to taunt us, stealing our confidence. About six months after my third child, our son, was born I found myself sitting in a doctor’s office this time diagnosed with post partum depression.

Even though I have loved to write since I was a child I never dreamed writing about the journey of motherhood or parenting would be my writing platform, but it was the community that formed about my writing that keeps me here because we need each other. To  talk to other women about loving themselves, embracing their flaws, and finding the beauty in motherhood and life on the tough days is a great reason to keep doing what I’m doing which is why I love that Chicken Soup gave me the opportunity to write for them. Chicken Soup stands for community and togetherness. They promote not just accepting and loving one another but ourselves too.  The world desperately needs love right now. We need to love ourselves, love one another, love those that support us, and through all of that we will teach our children love and hopefully that will lead to a better future full of more love rather than hate.

 Three kids, two miscarriages, two depression episodes, yet a wonderful life of eight years into this parenthood thing I can stand here and yes validate for you that this is ridiculously hard. Some days I feel like all anyone notices-work, the husband, the kids-are all the things I’m doing wrong rather than any little thing I’m doing right.

But I can also validate for you that there is nothing better, more rewarding than this journey of motherhood we’re on right now. Their giggles, hugs, their own journeys and accomplishments will overwhelm our hearts. They are worth the hardships everyday. So for them we will stare down our failures, mistakes, and disappointments and not let them get the best of us. They give us more joy than we ever imagined possible. To watch your kids become their own people and see how they inspire us to be better each day is an amazing gift. They will inspire us but without our even realizing it we will inspire them too.

In this competitive digital era of mommy wars, pinterest wars, instagram and facebook highlight reels it's easy to get more bombarded with the criticism and self doubt than the unity we should have in this journey. But whether we’re the older mom that’s traveled these trenches of the early season of motherhood, the mom that gives so much of her time to the school and PTA, the mom juggling her career with kids, the fit or creative mom that throws herself into her passions and makes herself a priority despite it all there's something to admire in about all of us. We are so dedicated to this role is so many different ways. We can recognize one another’s good deeds without it meaning any less of our own. I find so many of you #momazing in life and motherhood so I challenge all of you to leave a note of encouragement and appreciation on another mom or woman's social media page and tell her why she's #momazing (don't forget the hash tag). Let her know she should continue to spread the #momazing love by doing the same to at least two other moms. We are as unique and as individual as mothers and women as our own children are from one another. We all bring something different to the story of motherhood. Allow yourself to inspire and be inspired by one another. Share the mom love and tell someone why she's #momazing!  

 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Didn't Get the Best Me

I had such high hopes and expectations for myself and this year when I headed back to work in August. Everything had finally fallen into place. Our family was finally complete with a little boy even, we were not only settled and financially stable from our move into a small town community to raise our kids but once again found ourselves some great people to call friends in our new small town family life, Nate and I had both just had our best years of our careers the year before. There for a bit it really was picture perfect, and I knew in that moment it was great.

This past week I probably had my most successful week of the past few months. I sent an essay off for another possible publication, I received my order of books for two upcoming book sale events including my first ever book signing, scheduled a screening interview for a possible job that would be so ideal, knocked out my deadline goals at work with a yearbook deadline and third quarter grades, received a decent write up from a drop in observation, had a student leave me a great thank you note, got outside four times this week to play with my kids, and got in four workouts. We leave in a week to go home- one of my most favorite places to go-and made reservations for a little side stop to add another state/stop to our US map of places visited. It was a successful week. I should feel good about it.

But I'm just flat. I'm not "feeling" it. The past few months have seriously kicked my butt. No one or nothing got the best me these past few months. Definitely not my job. My house-haha- my housekeeping obligations started getting the worst of me somewhere between the second and third kid. My kids probably more times than they should have probably did not get the best me. My husband definitely didn't get the best me as that poor guy has had to run at the bottom of my "list" for far too long though we did have a great weekend away in the Fall alone together. I didn't give anything the best me like I had had such high expectations to do months ago. Instead I think I reached a point where I let it all get the best OF me.

The job itself has been more stressful than ever for everyone in my school system it seems like. Teachers have been dropping out of the profession before the end of the year at a rate I've never seen. I have serious philosophical issues with what's been going on with policy changes in our system, and I have a really hard time "selling" something I don't believe in. 

On top of that in the last six months my grandfather passed away; I dealt with the craziest parent sleep deprivation I've ever experienced; I've had issues with my own health with a post partum depression breakdown that resulted from no sleep and overwhelming work stress, pneumonia, and now I have to have oral surgery in a few weeks to remove an infected tooth that's been leaving me in chronic pain since February; we were told Nate's job that he loves won't be there for him next year due to budget cuts; and we learned of my cousin's cancer diagnosis. I let it all get the best of me. Twice now I've come home with no energy and have just crashed, sleeping the afternoon away. That on top of just not feeling "right" even after a good past week has me thinking maybe it's just my thyroid again. It's messed with me pretty good before.  I'm running on "fake it until I make it" positivity right now.

Sometimes I tell myself maybe I need to just lower my own expectations of myself. But I also don't handle the unknown very well. I don't handle not having everything "in control" very well. I also don't handle things not going "my way" very well. I hate feeling like I failed or disappointed someone. I have a hard time letting those things go which I know I should but obviously I still have some personality/mindset issues to work on.

In a few days I get to leave town and spend 10 days with my little family and visit my family back home. Hopefully it's the "medicine" I need to clear my head, put the disappointment that this year wasn't what I had expected or hoped for behind me, let go of the frustrations that I can, and come back positive and hopeful for the challenges and good things ahead.



 

Friday, March 31, 2017

What "Collateral Beauty" Taught Me

Guest Post by Stepping into Fatherhood aka Nathan Glenn

My wife has been wanting me to write a guest post on this blog for a while now.  I hadn’t known what I wanted to write about until now.  I just watched a movie called “Collateral Beauty.”  Though it really didn’t get very good reviews, I feel that it was a very powerful movie.  In fact I don’t know how you could watch it and not have to wipe tears away from your eyes, especially if you have young children.

Without ruining this movie for you… this movie is about dealing with loss.  Specifically the loss of a young child.  Whenever I watch a movie like this I can’t help butt imagine what that must be like and I can feel the pain as I put myself in the characters' shoes.  It really got me thinking about how we live our lives…more specifically how we live our lives with our children. 

Especially with modern technology, too often we check out.  How many times are you present with your children?  I mean really present???  I got to thinking about this on a personal level and I know that too often, way too often, we are physically present with our children but checked out because we are on Facebook, watching TV, playing games on our phone, doing work, etc, which my wife and I are guilty of all at different moments. Time goes too fast for us to continue to do this and we know it's something we need to really consciously work on.
 The time we have with our children will never be again.  There is no rewind button in life.  We don’t want to miss those special moments because we were checked out on our phone. We can’t get them back again!  We do our best to enjoy our children and cherish every moment, but we both feel we could do better.   As is pointed out in the movie “tomorrow is not promised.”  I could not even imagine losing a child.  My children are my everything and I really don’t know how I would be able to go on. However, I do know that I can enjoy the beauty that my children bring into the world.    Every day my children, your children, bring beauty into this world simply by being in it.  Be it a laugh, a smile, a hug, a cuddle, or a thought there is something every day that is truly special.  Every day we get to spend with them is a gift! 

This also reminds me of something I often tell my wife when she complains about our girls crawling into our bed.  Cherish these moment because one of these days it will be the last of its kind.  The last time crawling into our bed to get snuggles, the last time needing us to do their hair, the last piggy back ride, the last bedtime story, the last, the last, the last.  We are going to miss these things when they are gone so we need to experience as many of these moments as possible.  We can’t do that when we are checked out doing other much less important things.
So from now on we're going to look up from our phone, put down our work, turn off the TV and enjoy what really matters in life… our children.  There is a saying that life is what happens while we are busy making other plans.   Our children love us, they look up to us, and they yearn for our attention.    One day the “mommy, daddy” moments will become less frequent and begin to disappear and I don’t know about anyone else but I'm going to miss these moments.

 
 
 
                                     The Hubby's other Stepping into Fatherhood Guest Post

                               How Marriage is Like Riding a Bike: also written by the Hubby

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

It's Going To Be Okay

Shortly before we found out Lincoln was a boy I had a dream. It was the dream that not only told me he was a boy-which I didn't believe because I kept thinking we were having three girls- but that something wrong or troubling was coming but in the end it would be okay. As those of you that follow this story know not only was the dream correct in telling me he was indeed a boy but that he had heart tumors that first we had to worry could cause fetal death if hydrops developed, and then once he made it through the scariest part of the pregnancy  we had to worry that it was connected to a genetic disorder that would cause tumors to grow on his other organs and cause a variety of other problems for the rest of his life.  They told us he would have to go two years without any other tumors or evidence of the disorder appearing anywhere else on his organs before they would dismiss his case as a rare occurrence with multiple heart tumors that were not in connection to the disorder.

I still experienced a lot of crazy anxiety during that pregnancy but let me tell you that dream is what reassured me time and time again. I believed in it. After my miscarriages I prayed and prayed for something to reassure me about getting through a third pregnancy. Though I have had "visitation" dreams I had never experienced a dream of something in the future like this, and I haven't had one since.

Though I was confident months ago that he was going to be okay, I kept waiting to "experience" that moment in the dark nursery where I knew it was all okay. Though I would sit in that dark nursery rocking my baby boy many times, thinking how I knew in my heart he was okay, and would even ask myself was this possibly the moment I dreamed, it never "felt" like that moment.

Two weeks ago he went for his last EEG of this first year rotation. A couple days ago Kennedy Krieger called me to tell me once again that he was clear of any signs of seizure activity from brain tumors. And that he does not need to have any more EEGs! We're suppose to follow up with Kennedy Krieger this summer, and I'm not sure at this time if they'll have him undergo organ scans like he did at birth again or not. Either way I continue to be confident my baby boy is okay. Not only do I thank God for answering all of our prayers but for even answering the one to ease my anxiety in some way. That dream carried me through my pregnancy and beyond. I truly believed God sent me that dream.

Except then something happened the other night. My cousin that I grew up with was diagnosed two weeks ago with breast cancer at age 34. That has obviously weighed heavily on my mind now these past two weeks. Then one week later my older cousin (my sisters and I are the only other three girls on this side of the family tree)  received the news she also very possibly has cancer so now we are also waiting to hear her prognosis. My mind has been distracted and worrisome of late to say the least.

On Sunday night after we found out our water heater was leaking again for the fourth time in four years, I was tired from a quick weekend trip up north to see my husband's family, and it was almost an hour past my own bedtime, and my fighting daughters who should have also been in bed woke up the sleeping baby I was just ready for one of my own mommy meltdowns. So I grabbed that screaming baby out of his crib and sat there in that dark nursery to rock him. Of course my mind was still wondering if my cousin with the breast cancer had received her PET scan results yet because we were still anxiously waiting to make sure the cancer hadn't spread and it was contained. But as the quiet and peace finally settled around me in that dark nursey I told that sleeping baby, "You know it's all going to be okay. We're all going to be okay." Within moments I realized right then was the moment of my dream! But the "going to be okay" wasn't about my baby boy and his heart and this possible genetic order. It was about my cousin, my family, and this damn cancer. All this time I took the moment in that dream to be about the baby and his heart.

Was the dream meant to reassure me about him after all? Or was it meant to reassure me now? I don't know. But I do know this. I was meant to believe in it. Believe in it this whole past year when I thought it was meant for Lincoln. And believe in it now when I realized maybe it was meant for this moment with my cousin(s) and family. I've always felt that God talks to us and sends us messages if we believe and listen. He's there. We just have to believe and we have to look and listen. I'm listening and I believe. Thanks for always praying for us. We will continue to need them in the months ahead for my cousin as she begins chemo, for my one and only older cousin as she faces her own cancer path, for Lincoln as we hopefully continue working on ruling out this genetic disorder this summer and revisit his cardiologist in May to check on the hopeful continued shrinkage of the tumor he does have, and for all of us on this journey with the ones we love.

 
 
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Friday, March 17, 2017

Cancer and the Warrior Within

I don't know if cancer has ever walked into your life. It has mine. Once it does you don't walk back away from it the same way. Even as a twelve year old kid when I had to watch my dad and my cousin lose their brother and father to cancer that time in my life marked me. I get and understand now that I'm a pretty emotionally overcharged person, but that's part of why as even a kid when I watched my uncle lose his life to cancer at only 41 years old I understood how truly unfair life is.

From that point on I've spent my life wondering when and who cancer was coming back for. Though it showed it's ugly head briefly for a year with my aunt we were fortunate in it was caught very early and taken care of. Other than that we've gone 23 years since that last battle. But it's claimed one of us again. Possibly two in the same month.

I'm stunned. Stunned that it really did come back for one of us again. Stunned at who it claimed even though I always feared it's returned. Stunned that it struck us again so young. I'm mad. Mad that she has to go through this. Mad that my family has to watch someone they love go through this again. I'm scared. Because I've seen the worst of what this monster can do. I feel so many emotions right now for this person that I love very much. This person that I have spent very little of my life without and has been such a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. But despite being stunned, mad, and scared, I'm also hopeful because this monster didn't come back for the weakest of the weak. It came for the strongest of the strong. The strength of this person has amazed me since I was a kid. We were family, we were friends, but this person is also one of the most the most inspirational people in my life. She can and will beat this, and she will come out the other side even stronger than she already was. Because, little brave, those of us that know you, know there has always been a warrior within you.







Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Hard Truth of Marriage


I don't know about you but This is Us I think speaks so strongly to me because-wow, the way it is US-probably so many of us- is so creepy accurate. I just watched the scene of Jack and Rebecca screaming at each other. Unfortunately, that very scene has played out more than once in my own house.

It played out with each of them wanting the other to see what all they had given for the other and for their life, feeling that their part to the life they've created has gone unnoticed and underappreciated. As parents we work together, raising our kids and building our lives, but somewhere along the way I often wonder do we all lose ourselves and each other for a bit in the journey?

 
It's so easy to think behind the closed doors and the flashing moments on social media that all our lives and marriages are without struggle. Though mine is not currently in a rough spot it is not immune to them. I think understanding the reality of that is important to any marriage's survival. In the early days of our marriage my husband use to tell me it shouldn't be so hard.

 
Our fighting, our disagreements, our broken trusts and promises at times all must have meant we were broken in some way. Ten years into this though I think we both know now marriage is not easy. We see Jack and Rebecca's love story as this beautiful love story, especially in the beginning before we know all the details. I look at the love stories of those a generation or two ahead of me and as a young naïve kid I only saw the beauty in the imperfect lives of others’ happily ever after stories, and didn’t see the sweat, tears, and time that went into making those love stories what they were.  Life is messy; we as humans are complicated and all carry our own battle wounds from life's experiences; therefore, marriage can never be a perfect union. Nor was it ever meant to be. The love stories that we find beautiful and look up to are the beautiful stories they are because they endured the hard. They navigated the messes of life and complications of one another, and they came out the other side. But they fought, they cried, they misunderstood each other, they wronged one another, but they also picked up the pieces together. Marriage isn't finding your way to the alter together, but finding your way back to each other over and over and over again.



 

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Commercial Break of Life

I can't remember where I heard this from but it always stuck with me. "The happy moments of life are the commercial breaks." I look back at these past three years and there's kind of a dreaded truth to this.

Three school years ago is when I went through two miscarriages in five months. There were months after though that were like the commercial breaks of living life. I remember that spring and summer finding contentment with where I was in life and with our little family, though that nagging question of if and when we were going to have a third child always hung around me in the dark corner of my mind. Now that I know how that story ended-and it did end happily- I wish I would have let myself enjoy that commercial break a little bit more.

Then we got pregnant and it should have been a joyous commercial break as well, but it wasn't. I spent too many nights that school year up in the middle of the night while everyone slept eating yogurt (really loved it while I was pregnant this last time) on the couch, worrying about my unborn son's health. Then after he was born and we made it past the worst part of the danger with his heart concern, I had a wonderful four month long commercial break. I still think back on those four months almost a year ago now and all that time I had to just enjoy my three kids and be a little less stressed than I had really been in a long time. It really was a wonderful time. Then the commercial break ended.

Throughout this third year, the job has really been sucking the life out of me (as well as my department as two just said here's my two week notice and left in the middle of the year so obviously the stress of this job is getting a little ridiculous). Then my grandpa died on my birthday and it's times like those that it's hard to be far from home and away from your family. That was followed by the worst mental crackdown I've ever had or maybe it was the best one because I dropped everything and sought help right away because though I've always "managed" before when my anxiety and stress get the best of me, I couldn't even think about how to move forward. I got better and found myself able to "manage" again. But then we got told my husband wouldn't have his position next year so though they have to give him a position somewhere when you've worked your butt off the way he has you don't just want to be thrown into some random situation into some random school. A month later there has not been one hopeful positive sign for a position for him next year. So once again we felt defeated. Who knows where he'll be next school year and I need a new position myself. I have to get away from that hour plus commute. It gives me way too much time in my own head. Though it may lead to great writing content on here sometimes, I have to get out of there. Especially lately. Then more news came this week and now all of that trouble of the past three years seems like the commercial break compared to the road ahead.


I feel like a pretty blessed person. I don't look at other people and think why do they have it easier  because I know so many have it harder than me and mine. But damn why are some people dealt such a harder hand in life than others?  I know I shouldn't be mad about that, but I kind of am. I talked to my dad this week, the guy I go to when I need someone that can get me out of my own head. He's had a tough year. After growing up without his mom who passed when he was two, he lost his dad this past fall. Then he lost one of his good friends a few months later. This year has really sucked for him. Even he said, "Can't we catch a damn break."

One thing I've learned in my short 35 years is when that much needed commercial break comes hit the damn pause button! Don't fast forward to the next dramatic, gut wretching, having you on the edge of your seats scene of the movie that is your life. I know we all want to know how the story plays out, we want to see the anticipated conclusion. But next commercial break just hit pause. Slow down, take deep breaths, close your eyes and savor that moment, lock it away in your memory box to pull it out when the movie of life resumes. Let's not wish our time away. Let's not let our anxiety of the unknown and uncertainty steal our happiness of the moments that make life totally worth living.

I always think before our life here on Earth and after our life here we watch our whole life story like a three hour Hallmark movie where we laugh and we cry as the characters navigate their journeys. I always like to think just as if we were watching any other movie we see the trials and challenges as the defining moments that make ordinary lives extraordinary; that despite the heartbreaks in the story line it stays with the audience long past the concluding credits, inspiring them to look at their lives a little deeper and live it a little differently.

Life is just in a hard place right now. I know we won't stay here forever, and we will come out the other side of our trials and challenges stronger than before so for now we just pray for the journey ahead and for that next commercial break to get here sooner rather than later.





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.





 

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, January 29, 2017

This is All of Us

We just caught up with the new show This is Us. After hearing everyone go on and on about it and how it was the best show on television right now we treated ourselves to a binge watching marathon to catch up this past week.

Around one of the last episodes my husband said how Jack and Rebecca did "everything they could for those kids." I agreed. They obviously loved their children and were parents that I'd say gave it their best every chance they had. But despite their obvious love for their children and their greatest efforts they still made mistakes, and they still made choices that hurt their children in the moment and long term later down the road. Isn't that so many of us though?

I look at my parents who I feel obviously love their children and gave us a great childhood.  They did the best they could, but they weren't perfect either.  Just as my husband and I love our children and are doing the best we possibly can, we still make mistakes and  make choices that may hurt them in the moment or much later down the road. It's hard enough to meet one child's individual needs, and as much as we want to "treat" our children the same, they all have their individual different needs. Different children require different things from us. I think trying to figure out how to love our children the same yet treat them differently according to their different individual needs is possibly one of the greatest challenges of parenthood. I often wonder if we will spend our whole lives questioning our choices and parenting, wondering if we did right by each of our children. Did we give them what they each needed? Did they feel loved for who they were despite whatever their individual differences and imperfections may be?

They-the Pearsons-are so many of us. Working hard, doing our best, loving our family with everything we have. But the truth is each of our realities are all different. We all have our own demons; we're all a little broken in some way. No matter how picture perfect any of our family lives may be we each fight our own inner battle. The theme of self identity in here screamed out at me in the very beginning with the three siblings. I imagine as siblings all the same age the search for who you are and where you fit in the dynamic of the family and then the world is possibly an earlier battle for sense of self than some of us. I think we're all on a search for self at various points in our lives; it's a struggle I don't believe any of us are immune to. Our role as parents in that journey for our kids' terrifies me.

But as Randall shows despite our mistakes and our own imperfections as humans and parents, loving and continuing to love our children is what will lead to their forgiving hearts. But I think our love for them doesn't just lead to them forgiving our mistakes as their parents and accepting us, but also why as adults they will become compassionate and forgiving adults themselves more willing to look past others' mistakes and struggles to see them for the more complex person they are- not just a drug addict, not just a heavier set woman or man, just a man with a nice body and pretty face, not just a black man. Love as this show I believe reinforces is the greatest thing we can give our children as parents. We'll make mistakes, we as individuals and families will never be perfect, but that imperfect love is what teaches them forgiveness, compassion, and acceptance- so many things needed in this complex, imperfect world we live in.

 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Two Years Later...The Lost Baby

I didn't need my facebook memory feed on Thursday to remind me that two years ago was when I suffered my second miscarriage, the one that definitely marked me in a way I understand now that I won't ever forget. Friday a childhood friend of mine who has also experienced her own pregnancy lost shared this post about miscarriage that generated a nice discussion among moms that lost babies in pregnancy.

I shared my experiences with my two miscarriages, particularly that last one two years ago that left me devastated in a way I had never expected. I shared my fear in the months after that about continuing to try for a third baby despite the emotional storm of going through two miscarriages in the past year. I learned many things. I learned that losing a baby you never met is still a loss you will grieve in your own way in your own time. But here I am two years later and I'm still learning.

Because see first I thought losing a baby you never met couldn't really be that bad. But that day, January 26, 2014 will haunt me for the rest of my life. I understand now that women don't just forget the babies they've lost but never met. Those babies stay with them forever. They define each mother's journey of motherhood in their own just as each baby that came before and after them define her. I thought the rainbow baby that we all hopefully have at some point would in some way make up for that baby's loss. But this is where it all gets tricky in my head. I love my son; I couldn't imagine my life without my son. I think how if I had that baby I lost I wouldn't have had the son I have now or maybe even a son at all as maybe it was another girl. But I still think about that other baby. Was it a boy too? A girl? We had talked about four at one point. Maybe we would have still had Lincoln after that one though and maybe it was the fourth one (guess technically the third and Linc was the fourth).

The process of moving on is not what I expected. I think in my arrogant non experienced way I thought I would eventually just forget that it happened. However, I see now it/they are not something we just simply forget. I think I thought we would just forget because it s (possibly was rather than is) taboo to talk about our lost babies that some don't consider a real loss because it was never a "real" baby. Their existence is real to us though as soon as we see that hope of a positive pregnancy test.



Monday, January 23, 2017

Career Change???

I am burnt out. I know this may not be the best year to judge exactly how burnt out of teaching I am with all the policy changes we faced on top of the changes at home with adding a new baby. Even though I definitely feel leaps and bounds better than I did in October, though I don't believe I still have PPD, I'm not back to being my positive chirpy self.  But I  faced my last year of burnout just four years ago. Twice in five years seems too frequent. That year was definitely worse than this year. Maybe because I just don't have the sense of panic I did then. Maybe because as I get older I know myself better, and I know myself well enough to know I won't stay in a miserable situation for long. I will take action to resolve it. And if that action involves change I know myself well enough now to know though the idea of change scares me and can make me anxious I know I don't let it intimidate me enough to stop me. And the third thing my 35 year old self knows better than my 30 year old self is if I set my mind to something I know if I really want something I can do it. I just have to know what I really want.

I think that's been the biggest struggle with thinking of leaving education. If I leave the education field what can I go do that's not a huge financial hit? At first I haven't been finding anything that seemed worth the hassle of change and facing the fear of the unknown, yet the thought of doing the same thing for my whole working life is just starting to feel like I'm short changing myself. I worked in the educational setting at daycares the four years before I started teaching so that means combined I've been in education for 17 years. I've been a supporter of most education reform these past few years, but recent reform this past year has taken away a sense of student accountability worse than it even was before. I'm so tired of grading, and I know being critiqued and criticized is a part of every profession but I'm just tired of feeling like I'm doing something that I'm really just not very good at.

I've been looking for a way out for probably the last five years as it is. Honestly the things that keep me from leaving teaching aren't the right reasons- summer vacation and retiring in my 50s. Summers half the time stress me out because we don't get paid in the summer and unfortunately I've had to work three of the eight summers I've been a mom as it is. The other concern though is as much as some say teachers don't get paid much, it's been really hard to find a different job that would pay me the same. Maryland teachers make pretty decent money especially with a Masters Degree + and 13 years of experience.

Most of the best possible things I've found has been in sales and that's all dependent on commission which makes me nervous as I'm use to a fixed income that comes from a salaried job. Working in sales is not exactly my dream job. Though I've looked at education related jobs that are not in public school classrooms, again because I'm so burnt out of education in general none of those leave me very excited to tackle change.

Something I read recently about change and the unknown left me asking myself if I wasn't teaching and money didn't matter for a minute what would I really really want to do. I came back to this blog. No, it's not writing. It's actually what I discovered I really enjoyed through writing this blog and what I loved about my masters degree program that I started to formulate a new possible direction.

I went to get my Masters in Counseling ten years ago now this month. However, as it came time for the internship I had just had my first baby, things were tight financially so I was coaching volleyball on top of finishing grad school and it looked like the internship would require me to go part time at work or involve a whole lot of hours I had no idea how I would complete with a new baby at home on top of a full time job. So I did something I kind of regret now. Just short of the internship hours I decide to change my program of study and completed my degree with an Educational Studies degree rather than a counseling though my whole program focused on counseling. I am an internship and certification licensing away from being able to pursue career paths in a variety counseling settings.

Through this blog the most enjoyable thing to come from it, even before the publication acceptances, is the connections I've made with other moms. I love talking and consulting with other moms about the highs and lows of motherhood. I have loved and appreciated how other moms have felt comfortable in coming to me with their own personal struggles and worries with motherhood.

So how could I combine my counseling courses and passion for working with moms and still make a comparable wage to my teaching salary? This was the big question I set out to solve to see if I could even come up with a possible workable solution. Researching all of that is how I've started my new year.

Turns out I am 7 health science classes away, a new CPR certification, an online module training course, and of course an actual internship away from being able to become a lactation consultant/maternal health counselor (the roles vary base on place of employment) employable by private companies, hospitals though they prefer RN certified, physician clinics, and government agencies like WIC. Through further research I also found there is another course training program with a another set of online training and certification exam I could take to add certified childbirth educator  (I would not be delivering babies! Just preparing moms mentally for labor and birth and taking care of a newborn) to my list of credentials in which I would have an easier time working in physician clinics in educating new moms on childbirth, parenting, and breastfeeding. Depending on the actual job assignment with an education background, coursework in counseling, lactation certification, and childbirth education I would have the qualifications to function in many capacities with new moms as a parent educator, lactation consultant, and maternal health counselor as they prepare for labor and delivery and bringing home a baby.

My new career goal is to "retire" from teaching after 17 years, four years from now. Over the course of the next four years I would take my 7 missing health science classes and childbirth educator course, do the online module trainings, and complete an internship to take my two Board Certification exams in April 2021. Once I get my foot in the door of making the change then I may look into completing my official counseling certification if it'll benefit me in some way wherever I end up working.

I have found where to take all the courses I need. If I do this- I plan to start taking my first course in August or Sept. The biggest hurdle would be first in finding a place to log internship hours and second in actually logging those internship hours. Though April 2021 is four years away I would like to start logging those hours possibly as early as this summer.

I am no stranger to the fact that change comes with sacrifice. Not only would there be sacrifice in my time which is already pushed pretty close to its capacity at times to get myself certified to make the career change, but once I was able to make the change there'd be more sacrifices with time and money. Obviously I would work all year round and not ten months, and on top of it I would probably take somewhat of a paycut, possibly because if I could work a 30-32 hour work week in four days I would do it rather than a five day work week. But on the flipside I would be doing something totally different that I am excited about doing and anticipate loving despite the fact that all jobs have their hard, not so fun moments. I would also possibly have different hours that again though I may get to get up after sunrise and see my kids off to school it'll be traded for being home with them right after school; however, because the kids will be getting older I'd much rather leave my then middle schooler in charger for an hour or so after school then in the chaos of the morning routine so at that point in our family life I think it'd be better for me to be around in the mornings and returning later in the day. Then of course I would give up retiring at 53; however, with the youngest still in college at that time I was probably looking at working doing something for another 3-4 years after that anyway so really I'll only be working about four years longer than I would have.

When it comes to the uncertainty of tackling such a big change my biggest worry is that I'll do all this work to get all these certifications and qualifications and then struggle to find a job. I keep reminding myself I've been on uncertain roads before, but faith has always seen me through.


Photo courtesy of Blueprintchurch.org